Five Democratic senators have told the White House that they will not back Saule Omarova as the head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, thus killing his appointment as a powerful banking regulator.
Why is this important: The provocative opposition from a broad coalition of senators reflects the genuine political concerns they had with Omarova, a Cornell University law professor who sparked controversy for her academic writings on avoiding big banks.
- Their opposition also suggests a desire by some Democratic senators to overthrow the White House on an important nomination, even if that gives Republicans a political – and symbolic – victory.
- Republicans attacked the Kazakh-born scholar on remarkably personal terms and turned his appointment into a proxy battle over how banks should be regulated.
Driving the news: In a phone call Wednesday, Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) Mark Warner (D-Va.) And Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), All members of the Senate Banking Committee, told Senator Sherrod Brown (D- Ohio) – the chairman of the panel – of their opposition.
- They are joined to face it by the Senses. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) And Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.).
- The offices of the five senators declined to comment or did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Go further: Biden officials also heard directly from senators. They are aware of their deep opposition and know that Omarova faces almost impossible chances of confirmation.
- Yet they continue to support her publicly.
- “The White House continues to strongly support his historic appointment,” a White House official told Axios.
- “Willow Omarova is eminently qualified for this position,” said the official. “She has been treated unfairly since her appointment with unacceptable red bait from Republicans as if it were the McCarthy era.”
Omarova tried to save her candidacy in a hearing last week, where Republicans have him wild for his previous academic writings on how community banks should be regulated.
- His appointment, reflected in a horrific hearing in which Senator John Kennedy (R-La.) Questioned whether to call the native of the former Soviet Union “professor” or “comrade,” became a proxy battle.
- It has split between the banking industry and the progressives keen to impose more regulation on it.
- “The OCC creates, regulates and supervises all national banks and federal savings associations, as well as federal branches and agencies of foreign banks,” it says on its website.
The big picture: Now that the president has despised progressives by appointing Jerome Powell for another term as head of the Federal Reserve, the ideological struggles between centrists and progressives over economic appointments will escalate.
- Progressives like Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) Have already indicated they will work to oppose Powell.
- Warren supports another move by Biden, elevating Fed Governor Lael Brainard to vice president.
- With centrists like Tester nominating their preferred Fed candidate for a second term, they may feel more emboldened to challenge the White House on lower-level appointments.