‘Teacher or Buddy’: GOP Invades Financial Nominee’s Past

'Teacher or Buddy': GOP Invades Financial Nominee's Past

“I’ll tell you I’m disappointed by comments about where the nominee was born, where she grew up, what her education was, and chasing heritage. I think we should really focus on her ideas, and there should be no room for that,” said Tester.

President Biden’s pick to be the country’s top bank controller faces an unstable affirmation path after a hearing that was set apart by sectarian conflicts over her academic writings, position on fossil fuel financing and upbringing in the Soviet Union. Saule Omarova, Biden’s chosen one to become currency regulator, has confronted a litany of analysis from Republican lawmakers over what they consider to be her extreme thoughts about banking policy and regulation. But they weren’t the only ones voicing worries in the hearing of the Senate Committee on Banks, Housing and Urban Affairs. Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) – two moderates whose help is expected to affirm Omarova – signaled hesitation regarding her previous positions.

“However, I am deeply concerned about the positions you have taken,” added Tester, “including as a witness before this banking commission regarding our financial system, banking regulations and legislation” regarding the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency , or OCC.

The hearing comes nearly two months after Biden first announced he would hire the Cornell University law professor to lead the OCC. Omarova previously served as a special counsel to the Treasury Department during the George W. Bush administration and as a lawyer at the New York law firm of Davis Polk & Wardwell. Originally born in Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic, Omarova would be the first woman and person of color to fill the role.

But Biden’s decision sparked an unusually controversial campaign by the banking industry and Republican lawmakers to thwart the nomination.

The weeks following the announcement brought a torrent of public statements, opinion pieces and press releases about the nominee’s “radical” policy ideas that would fundamentally overhaul the banking system, as well as her criticism of major financial institutions (Climatewire, Oct. 4). .

Others, including Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), the highest-ranking member of the Banking Commission, focused on Omarova’s heritage. In a speech on the Senate floor last month, Toomey referred to several of Omarova’s earlier writings that he found particularly bizarre — and associated them with her birth, upbringing and education in the Soviet Union.

Among the proposals he talked about was a paper Omarova co-wrote arguing that Congress should create a new federal entity called the National Investment Authority, which would fund projects to support “socially inclusive and sustainable economic development.” grow’.

He also cited a paper Omarova wrote in October 2020 proposing to “end banking as we know it” by moving the US bank deposit accounts of private lenders to the Federal Reserve. “Where would anyone even come up with these ideas? How come it even occurs to anyone to think of these things?” said Toomey. “Perhaps a contributing factor could be if someone grew up in the former Soviet Union and attended Moscow State University and took an academic scholarship from VI Lenin.”

Omarova and her supporters say her past ideas are irrelevant to the job she was hired for, and in some cases academic thought experiments have been designed to push the boundaries of what’s possible in U.S. financial regulation. “I don’t want to end banking as we know it. I believe our banking system is the best banking system in the world, although it could be better,” Omarova said yesterday.

sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said the criticism from Republicans and the banking industry is an attempt to hide their real concern: that Omarova would be willing to crack down on the Wall Street behemoths to protect the US financial system. against risky behavior. “This is a vicious smear campaign coordinated by Republicans who are making offers from giant banks that want to keep gobbling up smaller competitors, robbing their customers and getting away with it,” Warren said. “Wall Street feels threatened, so they made an ugly personal attack on a respected person who was never in the spotlight.”

Tester, Warner
Ultimately, Omarova’s confirmation will depend on Tester, Warner and other hesitant Democrats. High on Tester and Warner’s list of concerns: that Omarova questioned a bipartisan banking law they helped write and pass in 2018. The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act was designed to ease regulatory burdens on mostly small and regional businesses, but Omarova had suggested it could also ease regulatory requirements for large companies.

“I strongly disagree with your characterization of that bill,” said Warner, noting that 69 senators supported the legislation. Tester, for his part, pointed to another key concern that was also repeatedly raised by Republican committee members.

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