U.S. President Joe Biden is still deciding whether to reappoint Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell or replace him with Fed Gov. Lael Brainard, as key senators wade in with their views on the choice.
Biden told reporters on Tuesday to expect the announcement of a nominee for Fed chair in “the next four days.” The president has ruled out other possible contenders for the job, said a person familiar with the matter, cautioning that the announcement may slip until next week.
Biden considers them both strong options and respects them both, the person said.
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown said he has no doubt the Senate would confirm either candidate. Banking Committee approval would be the first step in the confirmation process.
“I am certain we would confirm either of them,” Brown, an Ohio Democrat, said Tuesday, adding that either could rely on broad Democratic support and might draw some GOP backing. “I am absolutely certain.”
The White House is seeking input from senators to ensure either Powell or Brainard would get the votes needed for confirmation, a person familiar with the process said.
Sen. Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat who has not committed to backing Powell in previous interviews, told Bloomberg News on Tuesday that he plans to meet the current chair before Biden announces his pick.
Manchin has repeatedly questioned the Fed’s bond-buying program this year amid a surge in inflation.
And Sen. Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican, said he’d met with Powell earlier Tuesday and said he has no plans to see Brainard. Shelby said he has not decided whether to back Powell and said he was worried about rising prices.
“My concern with the Fed is that they have missed the inflation issue and they could do irreparable damage to our economy,” Shelby said.
Brown said he has a personal preference between the two Fed officials and has shared it with the White House, but he declined to disclose which candidate.
“They’re both clearly qualified,” Brown added. “I think it’s likely between those two. But I don’t have a read on what they’re going to do. They have really put a lot of thought into this.”
A White House spokesman, Andrew Bates, declined to discuss the Fed nomination with reporters aboard Air Force One.
Biden was in New Hampshire touting his recently enacted infrastructure deal when he was asked when he would announce his pick for a new Fed chair.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican who backed Brainard for her current seat, said she had spoken to Biden about his Fed choice while she was at the White House on Monday, but wouldn’t reveal her preference publicly. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine who also previously backed Brainard, said she backs Powell for chair.
Biden only mentioned he would pick the nominee for chair, but Brown and others have said he may move to fill more than one of the Fed’s vacancies at the same time. One seat has been open since the Trump administration, while the vice chair for supervision opened when Randal Quarles’ term expired last month. Vice Chair Richard Clarida’s term is up in January.
Brown said his committee could hold a confirmation hearing as early as December on the Fed chair nomination, although he added the panel may take more time.
“I don’t think it’s essential to do because the term’s not up until February,” he said. “We’re not going to rush it. We want to make sure that everybody has a chance to speak. The hearings will be obviously very important, particularly discussions of climate and regulation.”
Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, one of just four sitting Republicans to confirm Brainard for her current post, said in a hallway interview Tuesday that he urged Biden directly to choose Powell over Brainard.
“I think she’s more dovish than him, and I think for those of us concerned about the balance sheet of the Fed and inflation, he’s a better pick,” Portman said, though he declined to say when the conversation took place.
Powell has public backing from a number of Democratic and Republican senators, including a majority of Republicans on the Banking Committee and key moderate Democrat Jon Tester of Montana.
Tester, who has previously advocated publicly for Powell and to White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, wouldn’t say if he would vote for Brainard when asked by a reporter.
“I’ll tell you who I would vote for and that’s Powell,” Tester said.
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