Republicans on the Senate Banking Committee blocked several of President Joe Biden’s nominees to the Federal Reserve over ongoing concerns about one nominee’s qualifications to serve at the nation’s central bank.
Republican Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey, the ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee, announced Tuesday that he and fellow members of the minority party would boycott meetings of the committee, thus denying it the quorum it needs to conduct official business. The boycott stalled the nomination of five key Fed nominees, including Jerome Powell, Biden’s pick to become chairman of the Federal Reserve.
Republicans made the decision over concerns that Sarah Bloom Raskin, Biden’s nominee to become the Fed’s Vice Chair of Supervision, continually refused to answer Republicans’ questions about her employment history, specifically her involvement with Reserve Trust, a financial firm she worked for as an advisor from 2017 to 2019, after previously serving on the Federal Reserve board during the Obama administration. The Federal Reserve originally declined to grant a charter to Reserve Trust allowing it to utilize the Fed’s payment transmission system, but Raskin attempted to help the company receive one, according to The Hill. Raskin also sold her shares in the company in 2020, totaling about $1.5 million.
“Last week, I told Chairman Brown that Republican Committee members would agree to proceed with a markup on all outstanding nominations except that of Sarah Bloom Raskin,” Toomey said in a statement Tuesday. “Today, Chairman Brown may choose not to allow votes on the five nominees pending before the committee and for whom he could have advanced the process.”
“Ms. Raskin’s repeated and forceful advocacy for having the Federal Reserve allocate capital and choke off credit to disfavored industries is alone disqualifying and reason enough to vote against her. But whether to proceed with a vote today is a separate question,” Toomey said. The Hill noted that Republicans have taken a hard line against Raskin because of previous comments calling on the Fed to reject fossil fuel companies who tried to apply for emergency loans during the COVID-19 pandemic. She has also called for the central bank to do more in addressing climate change, specifically using its regulatory power to write rules against potential climate-related financial risks.
“Important questions about Ms. Raskin’s use of the ‘revolving door’ remain unanswered largely because of her repeated disingenuousness with the Committee, from her sloppy questionnaire, to an evasive conversation with Committee staff, to her refusal to answer questions from Senator Lummis at her nomination hearing, and her non-answers in written follow-up questions to the hearing. On 36 questions for the record, for example, Ms. Raskin claimed she either did ‘not recall’ or was ‘unaware’. Her repeated forgetfulness defies credulity,” Toomey continued.
“All senators—not just Banking Republicans—deserve straightforward and honest answers from Ms. Raskin before having to cast a vote on her nomination. Her fitness to serve, her judgment, and her probity are of utmost importance because Ms. Raskin is being considered for a 10-year term at the nation’s independent central bank and foremost financial regulator. This isn’t a garden-variety political appointment.”
Toomey stressed that the Committee was not seeking to block the vote, but instead trying to get answers to questions Raskin refused to answer. “Committee Republicans aren’t seeking to delay her vote,” he said. “We’re seeking answers. Until basic questions have been adequately addressed, I do not think the Committee should proceed with a vote on Ms. Raskin.”
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