Key Democratic lawmakers expressed concern over President Joe Biden’s nominee for a key banking position during a confirmation hearing Thursday, indicating that confirmation will be difficult.
Sen. Jon Tester, a must-have vote for Democrats, said during a Banking Committee hearing for comptroller of the currency nominee Saule Omarova that he has worries about her views.
The Montana Democrat said he has “some significant concerns about positions” Omarova has taken as a witness before the committee in the past related to financial system bank regulation and on legislation related to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
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He cited her opposition to the bipartisan Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, which he helped steer through Congress. The legislation, which was signed into law in 2018, eased restrictions imposed by Dodd-Frank and eliminated the Volcker Rule, which limits trading by banks using deposits insured by the government, for banks with less than $10 billion in assets.
Sen. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat who also voted in favor of the legislation, told Omarova during her confirmation hearing on Thursday that he was “pretty disappointed in your views” on the act.
Omarova has faced intense scrutiny from Republicans over her academic musings, although many Democrats have accused them and banking groups who oppose her nomination of red-baiting and deriding her over her Kazakh heritage and that she attended college in the Soviet Union.
In one paper, the Cornell Law professor called for the end of banking “as we know it.” And in “The People’s Ledger: How to Democratize Money and Finance the Economy,” she outlined a plan for “radically reshaping the basic architecture and dynamics of modern finance.”
Omarova testified that those papers were merely policy suggestions and that she has the utmost regard for community banking. She also addressed concerns about remarks she made saying “we want” oil and gas companies to go bankrupt. Omarova said she regretted how she phrased those remarks.
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The Independent Community Bankers of America took the rare step of publicly opposing President Joe Biden’s nominee for comptroller of the currency a day before Thursday’s much-anticipated hearing.
Democrats can’t afford to lose even one vote, as it would tank her nomination in the evenly divided Senate.