April 30, 2019
By Richard Cowan and Susan Heavey
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Doubts mounted on Tuesday over U.S. President Donald Trump’s pick to fill a vacant seat at the Federal Reserve, with one Republican senator saying she was “very unlikely” to back economic commentator Stephen Moore and another calling his nomination “very problematic.”
The remarks, from U.S. Republican Senators Joni Ernst and Lindsey Graham, respectively, signaled growing resistance to Trump’s bid to put a loyalist on the Fed’s policy-setting panel after remarks denigrating women, made over nearly two decades of writing and commentating, were widely reported last week.
Moore did not immediately reply to a voicemail and email from Reuters requesting comment. He has apologized in recent days for some of his past remarks about women, explaining that some were attempts at humor.
Trump, who on Tuesday reiterated his call for a Fed interest rate cut, announced he would pick Moore for the Fed post just over a month ago, but has not formally nominated him.
“Very unlikely that I would support that person,” Ernst, who represents Iowa, told reporters on Tuesday, adding that she had spoken to the White House about her position. If a vote took place in the Senate today, “I don’t think” he would be confirmed, she said, according to CNN.
“It will be a very problematic nomination,” said Graham, a close ally of Trump. Asked if he would oppose Moore if nominated, Graham said he would study the pick.
Republican Senator Richard Shelby on Monday expressed concern about the “drip by drip” of negative news stories about Moore. Shelby is on the Fed’s banking committee, the first stop in any confirmation process for a Fed seat.
Republicans hold a 53-to-47 majority in the Senate, and given that Democrats are expected to oppose Moore’s nomination, he can only lose the support of three Republican senators and still be confirmed.
Among his writings that have drawn scrutiny is a 2014 column in the National Review in which he worried about male wages and suggested a society in which women earn more than men could be “disruptive to family stability.” Earlier Tuesday on CNBC he reiterated his concern over trends in male earnings, not women’s pay.
Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia “has not made a decision on whether or not she would support Stephen Moore’s confirmation if he were nominated for the Federal Reserve board, but she has said she has questions about some of his previous statements,” a spokeswoman told Reuters on Tuesday.
Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson “will reserve judgment until he’s had the opportunity to meet” with Moore once nominated, according to his spokeswoman.
Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, one of four Senators who opposed Trump’s other pick for the Fed, Herman Cain, before Cain withdrew, told reporters Tuesday she planned to talk to the White House directly about Moore but would not tell reporters what she thought and repeatedly declined to say if she thought he should withdraw.
U.S. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said the White House should immediately withdraw Moore from consideration for the seat.
“I think neither his politics nor his views of women are very funny. The White House ought to immediately withdraw his nomination. He didn’t belong on the Fed even before these writings came out disrespecting women, all the more reason that the nomination should be withdrawn,” Schumer told reporters.
The White House still backs Moore for a seat on the Fed, Trump’s top economic adviser said on Monday. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters on Monday the White House was reviewing Moore’s past comments.
(Reporting by Richard Cowan, Amanda Becker and Susan Heavey, writing by Ann Saphir; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Tom Brown)