Biden bank regulator pick Saule Omarova withdraws after Senate fight over her background

Biden bank regulator pick Saule Omarova withdraws after Senate fight over her background

Dr. Saule Omarova listens during her nomination hearing to be the Comptroller of the Currency with the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill on November 18, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Anna Moneymaker | Getty Images

President Joe Biden’s nominee for comptroller of the currency, Saule Omarova, withdrew her name from Senate consideration for the post on Tuesday.

Omarova’s withdrawal came after concerns from Republican senators about the Cornell University professor’s writings as a legal scholar, as well as her background of being raised in the former Soviet Union.

“I don’t know whether to call you professor or comrade,” Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., said last month at her Banking Committee confirmation hearing, in a quip that was criticized by Democrats.

Another Republican, Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, that day said, “My concern with Professor Omarova is her long history of promoting ideas that she herself describes as ‘radical.’ “

“I agree that they are radical. But I’d also describe them as socialist,” Toomey said.

But Omarova also faced what ultimately was the more problematic lack of support for her nomination by several moderate Democrats, Mark Warner of Virginia, and Montana’s Jon Tester, due to her opposition to a bill that had lifted some regulatory restrictions on banks.

Democrats hold the slimmest majority possible in the Senate, with a 50-member caucus, so the defection of even a single member of that caucus will doom any nomination opposed unanimously by Republicans.

Biden on Tuesday condemned what he called the “inappropriate personal attacks” on Omarova, “that were far beyond the pale.”

“I nominated Saule because of her deep expertise in financial regulation and her long-standing, respected career in the private sector, the public sector, and as a leading academic in the field,” Biden said.

“As a strong advocate for consumers and a staunch defender of the safety and soundness of our financial system, Saule would have brought invaluable insight and perspective to our important work on behalf of the American people.”

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, called “Omarova is one of the most qualified nominees ever for this job because of her experience as a policymaker, in the private sector, and in academia.”

“Despite her unquestioned expertise and her bipartisan record, powerful interests distorted Professor Omarova’s views and writings,” Brown said.

“In a relentless smear campaign reminiscent of red scare McCarthyism, they have shamefully attacked her family, her heritage, and her commitment to American ideals. I am disappointed that these spurious attacks and misrepresentations of Professor Omarova’s views were not resoundingly rejected in a bipartisan manner.”

Omarova, in her own statement, said, “It was a great honor and a true privilege to be nominated by President Biden to lead the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency overseeing the U.S. national banking system.”

“I deeply value President Biden’s trust in my abilities and remain firmly committed to the Administration’s vision of a prosperous, inclusive, and just future for our country. At this point in the process, however, it is no longer tenable for me to continue as a Presidential nominee.”

The comptroller of the currency regulates about 1,200 nationally chartered banks with total assets of around $14 trillion, representing two-thirds of the U.S. banking system.

After Omarova withdrew from consideration, Toomey, the Pennsylvania Republican, said in a statement, “During the confirmation process, a bipartisan consensus emerged that Professor Omarova’s self-proclaimed radical ideas for America’s financial system were not suitable for our nation’s top banking regulator.”

“I hope the Biden administration will select a nominee with mainstream views about the American economy,” Toomey said.

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