WASHINGTON -- Republicans block votes on President Joe Biden’s five nominees to the Federal Reserve. This frustrates the White House, and creates an impasse at the time when the central banking is under increasing pressure combat inflation.
This week, the GOP boycott at a Senate Banking Committee hearing stalled Jerome Powell's nomination for a second term of Fed chair and Lael Mindard as vice-chair.
The main target of the delay is Sarah Bloom Raskin (Biden's nominee for Fed vice chair for supervision). Republicans claim she has not provided complete answers on whether she used her contacts at the Treasury Department and the Fed during Obama's administration to help Reserve Trust, a private Colorado payment firm.
In 2017, Raskin was on the Board of Reserve Trust when the Kansas City Fed refused the company access to its payments systems. Reserve Trust gained access in the next year.
Pennsylvania's Sen. Pat Toomey, the top Republican on Congress' Banking Committee, led the GOP walkout this week. He said that his colleagues still needed answers from the Kansas City Fed regarding Raskin.
Toomey stated Wednesday that he wanted to provide clarity on what had happened. "It doesn’t have to be that it was my opinion, but I want to know what happened. That's a requirement."
Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary, criticized the boycott as "a very extreme move that's totally irresponsible."
She said that "it's never been more crucial to have confirmed leadership of the Fed to help us continue our recovery, fight inflation," and she defended Raskin as "one the most qualified" Fed nominees. "Sen. Toomey continues to promote false accusations that have been rejected by the Kansas City Fed and Sarah Bloom Raskin.
Raskin is married with Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who has been in the House since 2017.
Ohio's Sen. Sherrod brown, who is the chairman of the Banking Committee, stated that the refusal to hold a poll shows that "Republicans have gone AWOL on inflation" as they attempt to use the issue to their advantage politically going into the midterm elections.
He said that they could vote as they like, but they have to do their jobs.
Brown stated that Raskin answered 189 questions, most of which were from Toomey, within 48 hours. She also answered questions from Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), going above and beyond what is required of a nominee. Brown said that he spoke with Raskin Tuesday night and that she had responded to all questions "in good faith." However, she acknowledged that sometimes she can't recall details from events five, ten years ago.
"If Toomey has his way, they will stop nominee after nomination after nominee. Brown stated, "Sorry, they didn’t answer correctly, so we’re not going to provide a quorum."
Ohio Democrat warns that if Republicans allow to block nominees in such a manner, they can extend this tactic to Biden's eventual Supreme Court nominee.
He said, "I believe this could set an example that could lead to that."
Senate rules adopted February 20, 2021 stated that the majority of members of the committee must be present in order to conduct business. The panels are evenly divided between the parties in the 50-50 chamber. This means that at least one Republican must attend to vote on nominees or take part in committee action.
This hardball tactic is just one example of a Senate GOP Caucus constantly testing its limits to prevent the narrow Democratic majority advancing its priorities. To prevent the vote on Dilawar Syed (Biden's nominee to head the Small Business Administration), Republicans used a similar boycott of the committee months ago. His nomination is still in progress.
D-Md. Sen. Chris Van Hollen predicted that Raskin, and other Fed nominees, would ultimately be confirmed, and that it was just a matter of "when."
"We are going to explore all of our options. Van Hollen, who is a member the Banking Committee, stated that Republicans should... turn up to vote to solve this problem. Their position is not sustainable. A full contingent is needed by the Fed. It is absurd to say that the Fed should do more to combat inflation, then to refuse to let voters vote on Fed nominees.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data, has seen an increase in inflation rates of 7.5 percent over the past week. This is a record for the period. The Senate Democrats are focusing their efforts on new ways to combat price rises, including a gas tax vacation and requesting cost-cutting measures such as letting Medicare negotiate drug pricing.
When asked if he was open to changing the rules in order to end a GOP boycott, Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) replied Wednesday that he was open to any rule changes that would make the place more efficient and effective. We're talking about all kinds of rule changes.
To change the rules, 67 votes are required. However, the so-called nuclear option requires only 50 votes. Manchin has not yet voted for the 50-vote option in order to limit minority power. Democrats on the Banking Committee don't believe that will change.
"Our principal tool right now is to talk quite publically about how Republicans are putting America at risk by keeping our Fed understaffed," stated Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.
Senator Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), a Baptist pastor, spoke about the human costs of the GOP's tactics.
Warnock stated in an interview that he sees the human side of political games. He said this during a Sunday sermon. We need to be able to continue moving forward with full access to all the tools that the Fed has.
Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) suggested that the Senate approve four of five Fed nominees and get more information from each.
She stated that if this is an all or nothing proposition to advance all of them simultaneously, we just need to wait until we have all the information Sen. Toomey requested." "So, there's a way out."
The White House rejected suggestions that the Senate would advance four picks, and waited to address Raskin.
Psaki stated that "We are working together with Chairman Brown to move forward all five nominees."