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GOP boycotts Biden Fed nominees' vote as bank fights inflation

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The Federal Reserve headquarters in Washington on Sept. 16 2015. (Reuters photo)

Republican senators have blocked votes on President Joe Biden’s five Federal Reserve nominees, leaving the future of the central bank in question amid surging inflation.

The move on Tuesday came over objections to Sarah Bloom Raskin, the White House's pick to be the central bank's Wall Street regulator.

Each of the 12 Republican members of the Senate Banking Committee refused to attend a meeting where the panel was set to vote on the nominees, along with Biden’s pick to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA).

Their refusal meant the panel did not have a quorum, a sufficient number of senators present to hold a vote on nominees under Senate rules.

"Instead of showing up to work, to do their job, Republicans have walked out on the American people," Senate Banking Committee Chair Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said. “Republicans have fled the room hiding rather than voting on a fair and experienced nominee.”

“I urge my Republican colleagues to return to the table and to vote their conscience. Let them vote 'no' if that's what they believe, but make them vote and let the Senate fulfill its solemn duties,” Brown said Tuesday in remarks before a brief meeting exclusively attended by Democrats.

Brown also said he would delay the votes until Republicans agreed to consider Raskin’s nomination along with Biden’s other four Fed picks.

Senator Pat Toomey, the top Republican on the committee, had urged fellow Republicans to skip the vote over what he said were unanswered questions about Raskin's past role on the board of a fintech company.

Toomey claimed Raskin had provided insufficient and misleading answers about her history on the board of the payments company that obtained access to the Fed’s payment processing system.

However, Brown said Raskin fully answered over 180 follow-up questions from Republican senators after her confirmation hearing earlier this month. 

“They're now objecting to voting on a nominee because they don't like the answers she provided. It's just a delay tactic,” Brown said.

GOP senators have said Raskin would use the Fed’s immense power to penalize the fossil fuel industry, citing her opposition to the allocation of pandemic emergency loans to oil and gas firms and previous calls to pay closer attention to climate-related financial risks.

Toomey said Republicans were fine with advancing Biden’s other four Fed nominees — Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, Fed Vice Chair nominee Lael Brainard and Fed board nominees Lisa Cook and Phillip Jefferson.

This comes as the US central bank is gearing up to raise interest rates to tackle the highest inflation in 40 years.

"Democrats will argue that Republicans are being hypocritical by complaining about inflation while also blocking votes on these nominees," Isaac Boltansky, policy director for brokerage BTIG, said in an email exchange. "Republicans will argue that Democrats are being unreasonable by refusing to pause on Bloom Raskin’s nomination."

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