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Climate protesters take part in an October 29, 2021 demonstration in New York City urging financial institutions to stop the pipeline of money flowing to the fossil fuel industry. (Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Climate protesters take part in an October 29, 2021 demonstration in New York City urging financial institutions to stop the pipeline of money flowing to the fossil fuel industry. (Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Climate Advocates Call on Senate to Confirm Key Fed Nominees

The slate of nominees, said one campaigner, is "critical to the success of the Federal Reserve and the role it plays to protect peoples' interests."

Andrea Germanos

Progressive groups are urging the U.S. Senate to confirm three of President Joe Biden's nominees for the Federal Reserve Board, arguing that the highly qualified candidates are needed to help address the needs of workers and the climate emergency.

"This slate of nominees can get the Federal Reserve back to work and address these serious crises through smart regulation."

The three nominees are Lisa Cook and Philip Jefferson for the remaining seats on the Fed's seven-member governing board and Sarah Bloom Raskin to be the board's vice chair for financial supervision, a key regulatory role. The trio appeared together Thursday before the Senate Banking Committee for a confirmation hearing.

Raskin is a former Fed board member and deputy Treasury Secretary. She's also the wife of Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland. Cook and Jefferson are both economists. If confirmed, Cook, who served on former President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, would be the first Black woman on the governing board, while Jefferson, who was previously an economist for the board of governors, would be the fourth Black man to serve on the board.

Brooke Harper, 350 U.S. campaign manager, said the nominees would "bring serious skill, competence, and experience to the Federal Reserve" and called the slate of nominees "critical to the success of the Federal Reserve and the role it plays to protect peoples' interests."

The Fed, Harper added, "is at a critical juncture where it must have the expertise to tackle the compound crisis of Covid, inflation, and unemployment, and the realities of the climate crisis in our communities. This slate of nominees can get the Federal Reserve back to work and address these serious crises through smart regulation."

The three nominees "having better qualifications than dozens of past nominees and eventual board governors," the Economic Policy Institute's Josh Bivens wrote last week, proved no buffer to resistance from the fossil fuel sector and Republicans. He said that "organized opposition... mostly settled into a focus on Cook and Raskin."

As Bivens wrote:

The opposition to Raskin concentrates on her policy record of regulating the powerful financial sector and seeking to make the Fed center climate change concerns in its policymaking. However, these aren't weaknesses or flaws in her candidacy, they are strengths. The opposition to Cook is even uglier, deriding her qualifications for the nomination using barely disguised racial code words. The wellspring of much of this opposition also included attacks aimed at Jefferson, but this gross campaign against the Biden slate has clearly decided it's more strategic to direct attacks about "qualifications" on Cook.

The attacks on Cook's qualifications also represent a profound bias in how Federal Reserve policymaking has been captured by the financial sector for too long. The narrow criticisms being leveled against Cook center on her not having published articles in academic journals about monetary macroeconomics. But, the vast majority of Federal Reserve policymakers have not published heavily in academic journals about these topics. Historically, the easiest pass given to governors who do not have an academic publishing record in monetary macroeconomics is the claim that they "understand financial markets," which usually means they worked for a financial institution.

Among those pushing back against Cook's and Raskin's nominations is the Senate Banking Committee's top Republican—Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. During Thursday's hearing, Toomey attacked Raskin's previous comments on the Fed addressing climate risks.

"She's repeatedly, publicly, and forcefully advocated for using financial regulation—including the Fed—to allocate capital and de-bank energy companies," he said.

That line of attack from Toomey and other GOP lawmakers who've recieved significant campaign cash from the fossil fuel industry, accoording to Accountable.US, is simply a "parroting" of oil industry concerns that must be rejected by senators as they weigh the nominations.

"These attacks from Big Oil and their allies on Capitol Hill against Sarah Bloom Raskin are nothing more than industry's latest attempt to pretend climate change won't impact their business," said Jordan Schreiber, a spokesperson for the advocacy group.

"It's no coincidence," said Schreiber, "that nearly every Republican member of the Senate Banking Committee has taken over six figures in oil industry campaign cash. Bloom Raskin is an experienced regulator with mainstream views on climate and the future of the fossil fuel industry and she should be confirmed."

A day before the hearing, nearly 100 progressive groups including Public Citizen and the Open Markets Institute urged senators to confirm Raskin, Cook, and Jefferson.

In a Wednesday letter addressed to Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), the groups wrote that Biden's "nominees are committed to maintaining stability in our economy in the midst of the pandemic, encouraging economic growth that benefits all working people, and fighting the impacts of inflation, all while preserving the independence of the Fed."

The groups pointed to "Cook's extensive knowledge of the nuances of Black employment [that] will provide much-needed input at the Fed in its efforts to achieve Chair [Jerome] Powell's priority of broad maximum employment"; Jefferson's research "on the effects of macroeconomic and monetary policy on employment, economic growth, poverty rates, and household finances—issues at the center of the Fed's mandate"; and called Raskin "well-suited to look out for emerging risks to financial stability and determine how to respond to them, in addition to being versed in new potential threats such as climate change and cybersecurity."

"We believe that these nominees' depth of scholarship combined with bipartisan experience and diverse coalition of supporters indicate that they would be powerful additions to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors," they said.

If Cook, Jefferson, and Raskin are approved by the banking panel, they will face confirmation by the full Senate.

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