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Sarah Bloom Raskin

Sarah Bloom Raskin speaks before a Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill on February 3, 2022 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Ken Cedeno-Pool/Getty Images)

In Latest Climate Obstruction, Manchin Refuses to Support Sarah Bloom Raskin for Fed

Raskin is "super qualified, would be good at the job, but Manchin's corporate donors don't love her," said one critic. "That's what's really going on."

Julia Conley

Sen. Joe Manchin infuriated progressives on Monday as he announced his refusal to support President Joe Biden's nomination of Sarah Bloom Raskin to a key position at the Federal Reserve—only the latest of the West Virginia senator's obstructions of his own party's climate action agenda.

No Republicans have indicated that they might support Raskin's nomination to serve as vice chair of supervision at the Fed, a role in which she would be the agency's top banking regulator. Without Manchin's support in the evenly-split U.S. Senate, Raskin's nomination is likely doomed.

"The fossil fuel industry gave more money to Manchin than anyone else in D.C. The return on that modest investment has been staggering."

Manchin suggested that the former Obama administration official's call for action regarding banks' climate risks as they pour trillions of dollars into fossil fuel projects.

"Her previous public statements have failed to satisfactorily address my concerns about the critical importance of financing an all-of-the-above energy policy to meet our nation's critical energy needs," Manchin said of Raskin Monday. "I have come to the conclusion that I am unable to support her nomination to serve as a member of the Federal Reserve Board."

Raskin wrote in a column last year that U.S. bank regulators must "leave their comfort zone" and begin regulating how financial institutions are contributing to the planetary emergency by funding fossil fuel emissions.

"They need to ask themselves how their existing instruments can be used to incentivize a rapid, orderly, and just transition away from high-emission and biodiversity-destroying investments," Raskin wrote.

Republicans on the Senate Banking Committee have boycotted a hearing to advance several nominations for Federal Reserve positions, saying they object to Biden's selection of Raskin due to her comments about the climate and accusing her of impropriety when she served on the board of a payments firm.

On Monday, the White House said it would continue to seek Raskin's confirmation, adding that she has been targeted by an "unprecedented, baseless campaign led by oil and gas companies that sought to tarnish her distinguished career."

As Jane Mayer wrote in The New Yorker earlier this month, fossil fuel companies, fearing that at the Fed Raskin could identify the climate crisis as a long-term systemic risk to the economy and regulate accordingly, have led right-wing senators in their campaign to stop Raskin's confirmation:

The industry's fears were made clear at the end of January, when a coalition of forty-one energy-business trade associations that opposed Bloom Raskin's nomination wrote a letter to the committee in which they called Bloom Raskin "a strong advocate for debanking" fossil-fuel companies... In their letter, the associations called Bloom Raskin an environmental "alarmist" with "a crisis mentality" because she has stated that climate change could result in "an unlivably hot planet."

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce—which counts among its board members executives from natural gas company ConocoPhillips, a top contributor to Manchin this year, and other fossil fuel firms—also wrote to the committee warning senators to reject Raskin.

Climate advocates including Bill McKibben linked Manchin's ties to the fossil fuel industry with his decision to block Raskin's confirmation.

Raskin is "super qualified, would be good at the job, but Manchin's corporate donors don't love her," said Faiz Shakir, founder of pro-worker media outlet More Perfect Union. "That's what's really going on."

Last year, Manchin forced Democrats to eliminate key climate provisions including a methane fee and the Clean Electricity Performance Program from the Build Back Better Act, before announcing he would not support the drastically cut package.

Kate Aronoff, climate reporter for The New Republic, noted that Manchin attended CERAWeek, an annual meeting of fossil fuel executives and politicians, last week. As Russia's military assault on Ukraine continues, a key message pushed by attendees was the need to develop "energy independence" in the U.S.—while continuing the dominance of the oil and gas industry as other wealthy countries shift toward renewable sources.

As Aronoff reported last week, Manchin urged the executives assembled at the conference to seek a "return on investment" when they talk to politicians about policy.

"Demand more," he said. "If you do that you all can turn this around."

"I'm sure these things are unrelated!" Aronoff said of Manchin's CERAWeek appearance and his objection to Raskin.

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