Democrats and their allies went on the attack Wednesday, accusing Republicans of playing games with the nation’s economic recovery after Republican members of a key U.S. Senate committee boycotted a vote on President Joe Biden’s nominees to the Federal Reserve Board.
In a call with journalists, Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison said U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), the lead Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, and other GOP lawmakers were “actively trying to kneecap our economic recovery as we emerge from this global pandemic.”
Republicans on the panel skipped Tuesday’s session, preventing the votes from taking place. Republicans oppose the nomination of Marylander Sarah Bloom Raskin, a former Fed governor and a deputy Treasury secretary during the Obama administration, whom Biden has tapped as the Fed’s top banking regulator the Associated Press reported.
Toomey, who will leave office at year’s end, has argued that Raskin hasn’t been up front about her work as a board member for a financial technology firm. Toomey and other Republicans have claimed the Raskin abused her connections to the Fed to help her employer, according to the Associated Press.
The boycott also delayed the reappointment of current Fed Chair Jerome Powell, who would serve a second term at the helm; Lael Brainard as vice chair, and economists Lisa Cook and Philip Jefferson as Fed governors, NPR reported.
Democrats control the panel, but need Republican votes to make the appointments.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who leads the Senate committee, defended Raskin, who is married to U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.).
“They can’t attack her on substance, she’s so qualified, so they’ve engaged in malicious character assassination and innuendo, without offering real evidence,” Brown said, according to NPR.
In a statement, Toomey said lawmakers deserved “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.”
According to Toomey, “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 asserted.
On Wednesday, Harrison, joined by state Rep. Wesley Harris, a Democratic lawmaker from North Carolina, took aim at U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., who also boycotted Tuesday’s meeting.
“These fed nominees are outrageously qualified and we need this diverse group of opinions because the economy is a difficult place,” Harris, an economist, said, comparing Republicans to “arsonists who have been put in charge of the fire department.”
In a statement, Tillis said that all senators “not just Banking Committee Republicans – should feel confident the committee process includes the thorough and proper vetting of any nominee under consideration.” Like Toomey, Tillis also raised “revolving door” concerns about Raskin’s appointment.
With the midterm elections closing in, a strangled supply chain and rising prices remain political soft spots for Democrats as they look to retain their majorities on Capitol Hill.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Harrison said it was critical for Biden’s Fed nominees to clear the Senate so that they could get to work on helping to resolve those economic challenges.
“This is why we want to get their nominations moving forward,” he said, adding that Republicans ” shouldn’t be playing these games.”
In a statement, the environmental advocacy group Evergreen Action also criticized Toomey and his fellow Republicans, accusing them of being “willing to sabotage the economy for the benefit of their fossil fuel donors.
“Inflation rates are at a 40-year high. Wasting time on political stunts to delay highly qualified nominees will only exacerbate the significant pressures facing our economy,” the group’s executive director, Jamal Raad, said in a statement. “We thank Chair Sherrod Brown for holding [Tuesday’s] markup to highlight the hollowness of these political stunts. Senate Banking must now reschedule a vote immediately so that these nominees can move to the Senate floor and get to work on the economic issues most pressing to the American people.”