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Republicans Mindlessly Obstruct Federal Reserve Board Nominee Amidst A Weak Economy

As Will Tomasko pointed out, last night Senate Republicans “bolt[ed] town en masse” without taking care of a series of judicial nominations, which due to the intricacies of Senate procedure will now have to be resubmitted in September, as any nominations that aren’t acted on before a long recess get kicked back to the White House. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) went to the Senate floor to request unanimous consent to waive the kick-back requirement for a Rhode Island judge, but deferred, as he thought it would go against the tradition of the Senate to make such a request when no Republican was around.

Also sent back to the White House due to inaction was the nomination of MIT professor Peter Diamond to the Federal Reserve Board. But unlike the judge Whitehouse is concerned with, Republicans were around to hear a request dispensing with the kick-back. They simply objected to it:

Under Senate rules, all nominations that aren’t completed before a lengthy recess go back to the White House and have to be resubmitted unless the Senate unanimously agrees to hold onto them and act later, Stewart said. Routinely, the Senate does agree to retain the nominations. If a single senator objects, the name goes back to the president’s office. In Diamond’s case, at least one senator did that. [Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) spokesman Don] Stewart said he didn’t know the identity of the lawmakers.

Whitehouse said that the re-submission rule “adds nothing to the process other than…deliberate and unnecessary hassle.” And in the case of Diamond, it leads to the Federal Reserve remaining shorthanded at a critical time for the economy. “It’s very hard for the Federal Reserve to operate with only five people,” said former Fed Governor H. Robert Heller. “To have the Fed at full strength with seven persons there is very important.”

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As David Dayen put it, it sure seems like Republicans are “just obstructing for sport now.” Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) has expressed concern that Diamond was not qualified for the position, but as Matt Yglesias pointed out, his PhD in economics means he “would clearly raise the level of macroeconomic expertise on a board that’s currently dominated by bankers and bank regulators.”

This is just part and parcel of an unprecedented effort by Republicans to slow down, stall, and delay the Senate, thereby denying the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats the opportunity to claim any accomplishments. The Fed currently is contemplating, though hasn’t undertaken, more steps to boost employment amidst the sluggish recovery. Diamond, as well as Obama’s two other Fed nominees, would likely be in the camp that wants to take such steps.