U.S. Politics

Controversial Fed pick gains support in GOP Senate

President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff defiant: 'Undoubtedly, there is collusion' Barbara Bush blamed Trump for 'heart attack': book Almost half in new poll still say Trump, Russia colluded MORE’s controversial nomination of conservative economist and former campaign adviser Stephen Moore to the Federal Reserve Board is slowly winning support from Republican senators.

Economists across the political spectrum recoiled at Trump’s choice of Moore, a commentator fiercely loyal to the president and a sharp critic of the Fed, raising questions about his independence and academic gravitas.

But a number of GOP senators are declaring their support for Moore, an opinion contributor for The Hill, while others have signaled openness to his nomination.

Moore’s supporters say he would shake up and add a fresh, conservative perspective to a central bank led by establishment-friendly, consensus-oriented academics.

While boosters acknowledged his often combative tone and unconventional views would be an outlier at the Fed, they said Moore could offer a useful counterbalance.

“I’ve known Stephen Moore for a long time. He would be an independent voice at the Fed, and that’s not all bad,” said Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the former chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.

“He’ll probably add a different dimension to the Fed, which sometimes they need.”

Trump has not formally nominated Moore, but said Friday he would appoint him to one of two open spots on the seven-person Federal Reserve Board of Governors.

Once nominated, Moore would need to be confirmed by the GOP-controlled Senate.

Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, said he typically doesn’t take a position on nominees appearing before his panel, but plans to move quickly.

Trump’s previous Fed nominees have been supported by at least a handful of Democrats, but it’s highly unlikely that any will cross party lines to vote for Moore, a sharp break from the president’s previous, more conventional choices.

Moore has spent more than three decades advocating for steep tax cuts, sweeping deregulation and other conservative policies championed by Trump and his top aides.

A fixture in Washington’s Republican circles, he founded the Club for Growth, an influential fiscally conservative nonprofit, and is currently a visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

Moore found himself in a new controversy on Wednesday, with the government claiming he owes $75,000 to the IRS. Moore disputed the claim but said he was working to reach an agreement with the agency.

GOP senators could also face pressure from the White House to get the president’s nominees on the board. Trump has struggled to fill the last two vacant seats on the Fed board after successfully clearing three Fed nominees through the Senate and elevating Jerome Powell to the Fed chairmanship.

Republicans derailed two of his previous nominees, Carnegie Mellon professor Marvin Goodfriend and former Fed Director Nellie Liang.

Goodfriend stalled before the Senate over concerns from conservatives about his controversial monetary policy proposals, and Liang withdrew her nomination earlier this year as Republicans spoke out against her support for strict financial regulations.

But Moore’s lengthy tenure in the conservative political world could also help win support from those Republicans who are fiscal hawks and skeptical of the Fed’s policies.

Both GOP Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Rand Paul (Ky.), who’ve opposed some of Trump’s other Fed nominees, said Tuesday that they’d vote to confirm Moore.

For more centrist Republican senators, though, Moore could be a tough decision because of his close ties to Trump and fierce criticism of the current Fed regime. Moore has raised concerns from critics and many advocates in the banking industry who worry he could undercut the Fed’s independence.

Bank lobbyists and trade groups are concerned that Trump’s repeated attacks on the Fed for raising rates could hurt the bank’s credibility as it approaches a crucial crossroads for the economy.

A day before the Fed hiked rates in December, the fourth increase of 2018, Moore said during a radio interview that the board should be “fired for economic malpractice” if they went ahead with raising rates. He also said Powell could be dismissed for “wrecking our economy,” despite the high legal bar for firing the chief of the central bank.

Moore has since apologized for those remarks, but they are certain to be the focus of scrutiny during a confirmation hearing.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said Tuesday that she’s “concerned that he has said that he felt the chairman of the Fed can be fired.”

“I don’t know Mr. Moore so I haven’t reached a conclusion,” said Collins, who added that she’ll be playing close attention to his eventual hearing before the Senate Banking Committee.

For now, other Republicans are playing down concerns about Moore’s candor and loyalty to Trump.

Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), who sits on the Banking Committee, said Tuesday that he expects to support Moore and believes the potential Fed governor would moderate his tone if he’s confirmed to the bank.

“Once these governors are brought in, and they recognize that they have an extended term in office, they seem to grow even more independent,” Rounds said. “So that doesn’t really concern me at this stage in the game.”

Several other committee Republicans said Tuesday that they expect to support Moore, assuming nothing drastically changes before his panel hearing.

“On paper, he looks like a great nominee. I’m most likely going to support him, and I look forward to seeing the confirmation hearing,” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.).

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) called Moore “a smart, engaging guy” and expects him to be recommended by the panel.

“I don’t know of any reason why he wouldn’t at this point.”

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