(Photo: Bill O'Leary -Pool/Getty Images)
Feb 15, 2022
Activists and Democratic senators were outraged Tuesday after some Senate Republicans skipped a key committee vote, delaying the confirmation of President Joe Biden's five Federal Reserve nominees to protest his pick for the top banking regulator.
"The Federal Reserve 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."
The boycott was led by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), ranking member of U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, which was was set to vote on all five nominations. The panel's rules require that a majority of members are present for such actions, which can advance nominees to the full chamber for final confirmation vote.
"Shame on Sen. Toomey and Republicans of the Senate Banking Committee for boycotting today's vote and delaying the confirmation of this highly qualified slate of Federal Reserve board nominees," declared 350 U.S. campaign manager Brooke Harper.
"This boycott is pure politics, and a rejection of the serious skill, competence, and experience this slate would bring to the Federal Reserve," said Harper, whose group criticized Biden's renomination of Fed Chair Jerome Powell but welcomed the others.
"Combined, we believe that Lael Brainard as Federal Reserve vice-chair, along with Sarah Bloom Raskin, Lisa Cook, and Phillip Jefferson are a strong ensemble that can reinforce the critical independence of the Federal Reserve, while at the same time bringing long-overdue diversity of thought, experience, and perspective to the Board of Governors," the campaigner added.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who chairs the committee, said in a statement that "Ranking Member Toomey chose to abdicate his duty to the American people and put our economic recovery at risk, instead of doing his job and showing up to vote on Ms. Bloom Raskin, Dr. Cook, Dr. Jefferson, Gov. Brainard, and Chair Powell's nominations."
"Americans depend on us to get these nominees on the job as soon as possible. If my colleagues are as concerned about inflation as they claim to be, they will end the theatrics," Brown said. "Any actions to delay this vote will hurt workers, their families, and our recovery."
Speaking to panel members Tuesday, the chair also defended Bloom Raskin:
Let me be clear: Ms. Bloom Raskin has been the subject of an unrelenting smear campaign and fear mongering by the ranking member and Republicans--something that's become all too common.
They've distorted her words and painted her as some sort of radical. As we heard during her nomination hearing, in her own words, Ms. Bloom Raskin is a mainstream economic thinker. She is not in the business of telling banks whom to lend to. Her views on climate are not extreme. They are about accounting for risks that that threaten our financial system, wherever we find them. As she has said over and over again, this is about economic and financial system resilience.
But the attacks on Ms. Bloom Raskin haven't stopped there. They've become more personal. They can't attack her on substance, so they've engaged in malicious character assassination--in innuendo--without offering a shred of evidence.
"Now Republicans have fled the room--hiding rather than vote on a fair and experienced nominee," Brown added. "I urge my Republican colleagues to return to the table, to vote their conscience, and let the Senate fulfill its solemn duties."
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a committee member, delivered a fiery speech about the boycott on the Senate floor Tuesday, denouncing the GOP for what she called "particularly desperate attacks" and "bad faith attempts to take down a highly qualified candidate who is committed to actually doing the job of regulating the biggest financial institutions."
"Raskin has unparalleled expertise in both the monetary policy and financial regulatory components of the job," Warren said. "Few people in the entire nation are as qualified for this role as she is."
The White House also slammed the walkout. Echoing Brown, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that "some Senate Republicans are playing politics with the American economy by blocking a vote on the chairman of the Federal Reserve and an entire slate of well-qualified nominees."
"Such an extreme step would be totally irresponsible at a time when it's never been more important to have confirmed leadership at the Fed to help continue our recovery and maintain price stability," Psaki added.
The press secretary also stood up for the embattled nominee, calling Bloom Raskin "one of the most qualified individuals to ever be nominated to the Federal Reserve" and noting that she "has made the strongest ethics commitments in the history of the Fed."
As The New York Timesreported Tuesday:
Sarah Binder, a professor of political science at George Washington University who co-wrote a book on the politics of the Fed, said Democrats would need to come up with a strategy for overcoming the Republicans' block or the nominees could get stuck in limbo.
"It is really a delay--it might yet scupper Raskin," she said, noting that Democrats could break the nominations up or could try to garner enough support among the full Senate to override committee rules, though that might be a challenge. "It's pretty unchartered, and they're going to have to find a way."
Last year, 350 launched a campaign calling on the Fed to end bank fossil fuel financing, align its own spending and asset purchases with the Paris agreement's 1.5degC goal, and encourage investment to limit global temperature rise, with a focus on low-income regions and communities of color.
Harper emphasized Tuesday that "the Federal Reserve 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."
"These nominees can get the Federal Reserve back to work and address these serious crises through smart regulation," she said, urging Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to move forward with a floor vote to "confirm these highly qualified economic champions now."
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