Fed’s Powell treads carefully as Trump’s central bank pick faces trouble

May 2, 2019

By Ann Saphir

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Conservative commentator Stephen Moore’s sexist comments about women have put in jeopardy his path to the Federal Reserve, with the No. 2 Republican in the Senate saying Wednesday that President Donald Trump’s potential nominee may not have the votes to be confirmed.

And mindful of the need to preserve the Fed’s independence from political interference, Fed Chair Jerome Powell is keeping mum.

“I think men and women should make the same for the same work, by and large,” said Powell, asked about gender pay equity midway through his news conference.

In comments that have become part of the public case against him, Moore laid out in a column in 2014 his view that if rising women’s wages mean they earn more than men, families could be destabilized. He reiterated that view this week.

The reporter pressed Powell about whether rising women’s wages could hurt the economy.

“I think we are getting in here to commenting on a nominee to the Fed directly,” Powell said, grimacing slightly. “That’s something I’d rather avoid; it’s really not my role to engage with potential nominees to the Fed.”

Moore is long-time supporter of tax cuts as a path to growth and a Trump ally, and agrees with the president that Powell made a mistake in raising rates last year and should now cut them.

Fed policymakers all but ignored those views in a meeting this week where they held interest rates steady and gave no quarter to growing expectations they would need to cut them later this year.

But it has been Moore’s past writings about women, including disparaging comments in humor columns that he now says he is embarrassed about, that have drawn the biggest protests from lawmakers whose support he needs to be confirmed.

This week several Republican senators signaled their hesitancy over Moore, with one, Joni Ernst, saying it was unlikely she would support his nomination.

On Wednesday, Senator John Thune said Moore’s nomination is “in trouble,” the Washington Post reported.

Moore did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on Thune’s remarks.

(Reporting by Ann Saphir; Additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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