Despite GOP Boycott, Senate Banking Democrats Vote for Powell

Senate Banking Committee also votes in favor of five other Biden nominees

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 05: Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) leaves the U.S. Capitol following a vote on October 05, 2021 in Washington, DC. Senate Majority Leader Schumer said he will bring a vote on a debt limit increase later this week setting up a contentious debate that could lead to the U.S. defaulting on its debt if an increase is not agreed to.

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Despite the refusal of all 12 Republican members to attend, on Feb. 15, 2022, the 12 Democrats on the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs voted in favor of the nominations by President Biden to six key posts, including five on the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. All six nominees now face confirmation votes by the full Senate at some future date.

Leading the list of nominees was Jerome Powell for another term as chair of the FRB. The other nominations were of Lael Brainard as vice chair of the FRB, Sarah Bloom Raskin as vice chair for supervision and a member of the FRB, Lisa DeNell Cook as a member of the FRB, Philip Nathan Jefferson as a member of the FRB, and Sandra Thompson as director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA).

In his opening statement, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), committee chairman, expressed dismay at the decision by Republicans to boycott the meeting rather than vote. He stated that Republican opposition to Sarah Bloom Raskin as a dangerous radical was without substance, given that, in 2010, she had been confirmed as a member of the FRB by a unanimous vote of the full Senate. Other Democratic members voiced similar opinions.

Key Takeaways

  • Republicans boycotted a Feb. 15, 2022 vote by the Senate Banking Committee on six Biden nominees.
  • All 12 committee Democrats voted to recommend that the full Senate confirm all six nominees.
  • The nominees include Jerome Powell for a new term as FRB chair and Lael Brainard as vice chair.
  • They also include Sarah Bloom Raskin, Lisa DeNell Cook, and Philip Jefferson as FRB members, including Raskin as vice chair for supervision, plus Sandra Thompson as FHFA director.
  • Republican opposition to Raskin was a key factor behind the boycott.

Who Is Sarah Bloom Raskin?

Sarah Bloom Raskin took office as a member of the FRB on October 4, 2010, to fill an unexpired term ending January 31, 2016. She resigned on March 13, 2014.

Raskin received a bachelor’s degree in economics (magna cum laude) from Amherst College and earned a law degree from Harvard Law School.

Raskin has served both the public and private sectors. Early in her career, she worked at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the Joint Economic Committee of Congress. She was later managing director at the Promontory Financial Group, a global consulting firm owned by IBM. She also served as the banking counsel for the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.

Before her previous appointment to the FRB, Raskin was the Commissioner of Financial Regulation for the State of Maryland. In this capacity, Raskin and her agency were responsible for regulating an array of interconnected financial institutions, including banks, credit unions, mortgage lenders, mortgage servicers, and trust companies, among others.

In this role, she was involved in shaping Maryland's response to the financial crisis. This included, among other things, implementing foreclosure reforms, fighting loan modification scams, and elevating licensing, lending, and servicing standards.

Who Is Lisa DeNell Cook?

Lisa DeNell Cook is a professor of economics at Michigan State University. She received a bachelor’s degree from Spelman College in Atlanta and earned her Ph.D. in economics from the University of California, Berkeley.

Her research has focused on racial disparities and global economics. One area of particular interest to Cook is disparities in intellectual property and innovation, including why the U.S. government grants so few patents to women and Black Americans. She also has crafted proposals on how federal policy could help improve economic growth through better opportunities for women and racial minorities.

“Whatever their source, gender and racial disparities exist at each stage of the innovation process — education and training, the practice of invention, and commercialization of invention — and can be costly to both productivity and the economy,” she wrote in 2020.

Cook obtained firsthand experience with global inflation when she served as an advisor in Nigeria and researched Soviet innovation while completing her dissertation.

Prior to Cook's confirmation hearing, the official Twitter account for Republican members of the Senate Banking Committee stated that Cook had blocked its access to her profile and tweets. The Republican account earlier had used some of her prior social media posts to argue that she is too partisan to join the Fed.

“For years, Prof. Cook has used her Twitter account to engage in partisan political fights, taking extreme Left-wing positions on issues, especially noneconomic topics,” the Republican account charged on Jan. 31, 2022. It added: “This begs the question: Will @drlisadcook respect the @federalreserve’s independence?”

If confirmed by the full U.S. Senate, Cook would be the first Black woman to serve on the FRB.

Who Is Philip Nathan Jefferson?

Philip Jefferson is an economist on the faculty of Davidson College in North Carolina. If confirmed by the full U.S. Senate, Jefferson would be the fourth Black man to serve on the FRB in its history.

Jefferson also is the vice president for academic affairs and the dean of faculty at Davidson. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Virginia. He previously worked at the Fed as an economist in its monetary affairs division from 1996 to 1997, and, prior to that, as a research assistant in its fiscal analysis section from 1983 to 1985.

Jefferson's writing and teaching focus on poverty and inequality. He has taught at Columbia University, the University of Virginia, and Swarthmore College, and was a visiting assistant research economist at the University of California, Berkeley.

Article Sources
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  1. U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. "Executive Session, Tuesday, February 15, 2022."

  2. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. "Federal Reserve History: Sarah Bloom Raskin."

  3. CNBC. "Economist Lisa Cook is poised to make history at the Fed – but first she must face a grilling from senators."

  4. Bloomberg. "White House Likely to Nominate Philip Jefferson for Fed Seat."