By Andrea Shalal
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – After an earlier nominee for a top U.S. banking regulation post was torpedoed, White House officials are determined not to let it happen again and have circled around President Joe Biden’s nominees for three top Federal Reserve jobs.
The three nominees – former Fed Governor Sarah Bloom Raskin and economists Philip Jefferson of Davidson College in North Carolina and Lisa Cook of Michigan State University – face a Senate Banking Committee confirmation hearing on Thursday, but sparks are already flying.
Senate Republicans and others opposed to the nominations -especially Raskin’s – have unleashed a wave of criticism. They have targeted Raskin’s nomination to become vice chair for supervision in large part because of her views on climate change.
But, in contrast to the administration’s tepid response to a similar onslaught against Saule Omarova over her nomination as comptroller of the currency – a campaign that resulted in her withdrawing her name – the Biden team is now doing daily battle to promote their nominees to the Fed board of governors.
“They’re definitely more engaged on these nominees,” said one Senate aide. “This is an historic opportunity to really reshape the Federal Reserve, and the White House is taking it seriously.”
The effort, which one White House official said involves daily online meetings of nearly a dozen officials was launched to stay abreast of and respond quickly to attacks by Republicans and business interests on the candidates.
They are also trying to stave off any opposition by Democrats, who ultimately helped unravel Omarova’s nomination.
Biden’s full slate of nominees includes Jerome Powell for another term as chair and Governor Lael Brainard as vice chair. Chosen to bring greater diversity to the Fed, the three candidates include two who are Black and two women. If all are confirmed, four of the Board’s seven seats would be in the hands of women for the first time, including the first Black woman governor.
“Given this is a top priority, we have established a war room at the White House composed of various departments, meeting daily to push positive news on the nominees and the endorsements that continue to roll in in support of each of the nominees,” the White House official said.
The effort, which includes nearly daily news releases highlighting support for the candidates, reflects the importance of the Federal Reserve in shaping U.S. economic and monetary policy and the large number of Fed nominees facing confirmation at once, the official said.
The stakes are high as the Fed gears up to raise interest rates to counter an unexpected spike in inflation, and the economy struggles with supply chain logjams and worker shortages.
Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, said the White House’s campaign to promote the Fed nominees was necessary. Cook’s detractors have focused on her status as a Black woman and not given her credentials due weight while former President Donald Trump’s nominees were not scrutinized as rigorously even though they were less qualified, he said.
“She is more than qualified,” he said. “We can’t ignore the fact that this is the first time that a Black woman has been nominated to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in over 100 years … We have a right to expect that she’s going to be treated fairly.”
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Dan Burns and Cynthia Osterman)