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Why Biden’s Fed nominee has run into a conservative Senate wall

Sarah Bloom Raskin is clearly qualified for the Fed board, but her progressive views on climate have sparked fierce conservative opposition.


Twelve years ago, Barack Obama nominated Sarah Bloom Raskin to the Federal Reserve’s board of governors. Raskin — at the time, Maryland’s commissioner of financial regulation — was so accomplished and obviously well qualified that the Senate confirmed her unanimously.

In 2014, Obama tapped Raskin for another role: Deputy secretary at the Treasury Department. Republicans couldn’t think of any reason to oppose her and was confirmed by voice vote, without any opponents.

Given Raskin’s extensive experience, expertise, and credentials, it was hardly surprising when President Joe Biden nominated Raskin to return to the Fed — an institution where she served in a Senate-confirmed job for four years — this time as a vice chair. Between her obvious qualifications and earlier confirmations, she seemed well positioned to succeed.

At least, that’s what many thought as of a few months ago. As NBC News reported yesterday, Raskin’s nomination has run into a conservative wall in the Senate.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said Monday that he is “unable” to support President Joe Biden’s nomination of Sarah Bloom Raskin for the Federal Reserve Board. Manchin is not a member of the Banking Committee, which is considering the Federal Reserve nominees, but he is a key vote in the evenly split Senate.

Perhaps some of the less conservative members of the Senate Republican conference might help make up the difference? Apparently not: Maine’s Sen. Susan Collins also announced yesterday that she will oppose Raskin, and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski is on record saying she’s a firm “no” vote on her nomination.

Of course, they’re prepared to oppose her if her nomination reaches the Senate floor, which also appears unlikely: Republicans on the Senate Banking Committee are so fiercely opposed to Raskin that they’ve boycotted the panel’s proceedings in the hopes of derailing her nomination. GOP senators aren’t satisfied with voting against Raskin; they’ve launched an effort to prevent Raskin from even receiving a vote in the first place.

And why, pray tell, are conservative senators so opposed to a highly qualified nominee who’s twice been easily confirmed by the Senate? NBC News reported last month on her confirmation hearing, and the “main point of contention was Raskin’s progressive leanings with regard to climate change.” A recent HuffPost report added:

Raskin ... entered the industry’s crosshairs in March 2020, when, in testimony before the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, she called for new federal rules requiring investors to disclose the risk that climate change poses to assets. She then urged U.S. regulators to carry out the kind of climate “stress tests” ― models to determine how a financial institution’s assets gain or lose value if, for example, a natural disaster upends supply chains or a government policy to cut emissions renders fossil fuel reserves worthless ― that the Bank of England and European Central Bank were already performing.

Around the same time, when the Fed implemented crisis programs as Covid-19 wreaked havoc on the economy, Raskin urged the Fed not to provide federal aid to oil, gas, and coal companies.

And so, when Biden nominated Raskin for a leadership post at the Fed, the oil, gas, and coal companies fought to derail her nomination. As of yesterday, they’re winning.

Postscript: Because Senate Democrats have the ability to confirm Raskin on their own, I saw some commentary yesterday holding Manchin solely responsible for her nomination’s apparent demise. The criticisms are not baseless: The decision largely came down to his preference — and if the conservative Democrat agreed to support Raskin, she’d be confirmed.

But to blame Manchin entirely for these circumstances is a little too easy: The only reason the West Virginian is in such a powerful position is because she has literally zero Senate Republican supporters.

Update: A few hours after I published this report, Raskin withdrew from consideration.