Democrats went around the half-empty table Tuesday, piling on their Republican colleagues for skipping a Senate hearing to protest the nomination of Sarah Bloom Raskin to the Federal Reserve.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), chairman of the committee, accused Republicans of running a “smear campaign” and engaging in “malicious character assassination” of an expert who’s twice been unanimously confirmed by the Senate.
“Ranking Member Toomey and my Republican colleagues have nothing on their side on this issue, so they pound the table,” Brown said.
The other Democrats on the committee then took turns adding their own critiques. All pointed out that Republicans have spent weeks talking solely about inflation concerns, just to then boycott one of the Senate’s best opportunities to help combat it by filling out the Fed.
Adding another farcical dimension, Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) pointed out, is the quality of nominees brought before them during the Trump administration.
“What is further rich in this situation is the number of nominees came before us in the previous administration that were not qualified, but they showed up to vote for them,” he noted.
Raskin, wife of Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), previously served as a member of the board of governors of the Federal Reserve and a former United States Deputy Secretary of the Treasury under former President Barack Obama. She has been nominated as vice chair of supervision.
Republicans say she hasn’t adequately addressed their concerns, many of which center on her climate change comments.
“The very, very clear and repeatedly documented fact that Ms. Raskin has advocated using the supervisory powers of the Fed as a mechanism to allocate capital away from carbon intensive industries — in my view, that’s a reason to vote against her; that is disqualifying,” Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), ranking member on the committee who led the boycott, told reporters.
“The President’s nominee, Sarah Bloom Raskin, has pressured the Fed to stop being a regulator and become a left-wing activist body,” added Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) from the floor Tuesday morning.
Raskin has advocated for transitioning away from investments that produce high amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, and some Republicans have cited an opinion piece she published in the New York Times in 2020, critiquing the Paycheck Protection Program for providing loans to fossil fuel companies.
She has repeatedly highlighted the economic risks and destabilization that accompany climate change, placing her on the same page as the many experts who worry that the United States has been negligent in factoring in how climate change and the disasters it causes present a danger to banks and the whole financial system.
“They don’t like what she’s saying on climate and what she’s done on climate and they’re not willing to — most Republicans are not even willing to acknowledge that we should combat climate change in this body,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), chairman of the committee, told reporters. “And that gets all the energy companies turning the heat up — sorry, pardon the bad pun there — and you know how Republicans respond to the fossil fuel companies, so of course they’re doing this.”
Some Republicans have also accused her of a potential conflict of interest after a company she headed obtained a Fed master account while she was serving on its board. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki retorted in a statement that “Toomey has continued to promote false allegations that have already been shot down by ethics experts, the Kansas City Fed, the founder of Reserve Trust, Sarah Bloom Raskin herself, and more.”
During the hearing, some Democrats blasted Republicans for neglecting their constitutional responsibilities.
“They can be here to vote no,” Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) said. “All we’re trying to do is move them out of committee,” she added, saying they could vote against the nominees on the floor.
Republicans are hoping that the stunt will force Democrats to let the other nominees go through, and hold off on Raskin. Brown said no way.
“We’re not gonna cherry pick,” Brown said. “We’re not gonna play that game. We’re gonna bring all five of them up.”
The 50 Democrats could force a Senate rule change to circumvent the Republicans’ hearing boycott, but not until Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) returns to the chamber. He’s recovering from a stroke and due back in a few weeks.