Senate Advances Waller Confirmation to the Fed Toward Final Vote

The Senate voted to advance Christopher Waller’s nomination to serve on the Board, clearing the way final confirmation Thursday in what could be President ’s last chance to shape the U.S. central bank.

Senators voted 50-45 to remove the last procedural hurdle in a months-long confirmation process for Waller, the research director at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

A second, more controversial pending Fed nominee, former economic adviser Judy Shelton, remains stalled. She has little chance of elevation after the Senate blocked action on her confirmation two weeks ago — though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell insists he could try to confirm her before Trump’s term ends on Jan. 20.

The Senate Banking Committee advanced Waller’s nomination in July with a smattering of opposition and bipartisan support. Before he took his job at the Federal Reserve Bank, Waller taught economics at the University of Notre Dame.

With Waller’s confirmation, Trump will have placed four of seven members on the central bank’s board. He also elevated Jerome Powell to chairman.

Shelton’s chances of being confirmed fading. Her nomination was blocked from advancing to a final vote on Nov. 17, after two GOP senators were absent due to exposure to Covid-19. McConnell used a procedural maneuver to reserve the right to vote on it again, but Republicans will lose a critical vote Wednesday at 2 .m. when Arizona Democratic Senator-elect Mark Kelly is sworn in to replace GOP Senator Martha McSally.

A vote by Kelly with his party would keep Shelton from getting onto the Fed, because three Republicans — Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee — are joining Senate Democrats to oppose her. Republicans have a 53-47 Senate majority, but Kelly’s presence will drop that to 52-48.

While Trump could continue his push to get Shelton confirmed before President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in, Republicans could lose control of the floor agenda on Jan. 5 when two Senate-seat special elections in Georgia determine control of the chamber. Even if the GOP keeps the Senate, McConnell may never get the votes he needs on Shelton without some unexpected absences by senators opposing her.

Trump previously worked to place four other people to fill the two vacant board seats, all of whom failed to make it to confirmation.

His failed Fed choices have included people too partisan or unorthodox to garner enough support in the Senate, including the former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, who has since died, and Stephen Moore, an economist at the conservative Heritage Foundation who advised Trump’s 2016 campaign. Cain and Moore withdrew from consideration in the face of opposition from Senate Republicans.

The Senate also didn’t act in 2018 on the nominations of two more mainstream candidates, economist Nellie Liang and the late Marvin Goodfriend, who withdrew from consideration.

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