The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard, by a vote of 52 to 43, as the central bank’s deputy chairman.
Then the drama unfolded.
Democrats originally planned to move forward with a vote on Fed nominee Lisa Cook. But three members of their party – the senses. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Chris Murphy of Connecticut, and Vice President Kamala Harris – announced Tuesday that they had tested positive for COVID-19 and could not attend. The presence of all three would be crucial for Cook, who received no Republican support in a vote last month to consider his nomination. Even with a 50-50 split on the party line, Harris is expected to vote for Cook to be confirmed.
As it was Tuesday, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown, D-OH, called on Republicans to delay Cook’s vote. But the ranking panel member, Sen. Pat Toomey, R-PA, objected.
“It’s very simple. I want to vote on all names. Republicans are ready to vote on all names,” Toomey said in the Senate, according to Roll Call. . We want to vote.
In addition to Brainard and Cook, the Senate is considering the renomination of Jerome Powell as Fed Chairman and economist Philip Jefferson to take an open seat on the central bank’s board.
“We want to vote for Lisa Cook. We want to vote on President Powell. We want to vote for Mr. Jefferson,” Toomey added on Tuesday. “We are ready to vote, not to overturn a vote, and so I oppose it.”
Toomey’s decision forced a vote Tuesday on Cook’s nomination, which failed, 51-47. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, changed his vote to no and filed a motion to reconsider Cook’s nomination at a later date.
Toomey then asked Democrats to take votes on Powell and Jefferson this week. But Brown argued against it, not making it clear whether Democrats intend to wait for Wyden, Murphy and Harris to return to confirm Powell and Jefferson. (Neither is expected to generate much resistance from Republicans.)
Even if the votes for Powell and Jefferson were to take place this week and Jefferson were to be confirmed, he is unlikely to be seated before a May 3-4 Fed board meeting, where the central bank should raise interest rates by half a percentage indicate.
Brown dug in with Republican lawmakers Tuesday about the race.
“It is disappointing that Senate Republicans are exploiting our colleagues’ absences to arrest a qualified black woman,” Brown said in a statement. “Once again, they have decided that scoring political points is more important than serving the public and lowering prices for American families.”
Cook would be the first black woman to serve as Fed governor. Brown added that Republicans should be “ashamed” of their record when it comes to black women nominees.
Toomey noted that Republicans on the Senate Banking Committee voted to advance five Biden administration nominees who are black women, adding that it is “sad and ashamed” of Brown to imply “that there is a kind of racial prejudice”.
Toomey stuck to an oft-repeated argument from Republicans that Cook’s experience doesn’t qualify her for the job.
“It’s worth asking whether these candidates are really the ‘inflation fighters’ the White House claims they are,” Toomey said in the Senate last month, according to Roll Call. “In my opinion, one candidate in particular – Professor Lisa Cook – fails this test dramatically. … Professor Cook has virtually no experience in monetary policy. She has a doctorate in economics. However, not a single one of her publications does not concern the monetary economy.
Brown on Tuesday called Republican votes against named black women a “usual” and “constant pattern,” and listed Cook’s good faith. “Scholar Truman, scholar Marshall, I believe too, Ph.D. from Berkeley, graduate from Spelman, teaches at Michigan State,” Brown said. “Twelve out of 12 [Senate banking Republicans] voted against Lisa Cook, saying she was unqualified… So we’re not getting any help from them to fill the Federal Reserve.
The Fed’s New No. 2
Brainard’s confirmation gives the Fed a second-in-command for the first time since Richard Clarida resigned in January, shortly before his term expired. Brainard’s term as vice president is set to end in 2026.
As for the other vacant Fed vice chairman, nominee Michael Barr’s paperwork is expected to be submitted this week, and the White House has expressed a desire to have it confirmed by the end of May, Reuters reported on Tuesday.
Brainard received the votes of seven Republicans on Tuesday, according to the Washington Post: Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Todd Young of Indiana and four senators from the banking panel – Mike Crapo of Idaho, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Mike Rondes of South Dakota and Bill Hagerty of Tennessee.
Brainard saw significantly less support across the board on Tuesday than when she was confirmed as Fed governor in 2014 by a 61-31 vote.
Toomey again underlined her reservations about Brainard on Tuesday, saying she will “undermine the credibility and independence of the Fed by stepping away” from its statutory mandate.
“Governor Brainard urged the Fed to address the politically charged issue of global warming, which is beyond the expertise and mission of the Fed,” Toomey said in a statement.
During his confirmation hearing in January, Toomey asked Brainard if his support for more climate research and analysis at the Fed was “a precursor to diverting capital away from” fossil fuel companies.
“We wouldn’t tell banks which sectors to lend to or not, but we want to make sure they measure, monitor and manage [their] material risks,” Brainard replied.
Toomey, however, dismissed his answer as semantic.
Other Republicans who voted against Brainard may have objected to a series of dissents she has issued over the past four years, against Fed moves to ease regulations from the 2007-08 crisis. .