Five centrist Dems oppose Biden’s lefty pick for bank regulator


Five centrist Democratic senators have reportedly told the White House that they’ll oppose the nomination of Saule Omarova, President Joe Biden’s controversial lefty pick for head of the Treasury Department’s Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

The opposition from both Republicans and, now, some of Biden’s own party could kill the nomination of the Soviet-born academic to the critically important post, Axios reported.

In a Wednesday phone call, Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), all members of the Senate Banking Committee, told Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), the panel’s chairman, that they oppose Omarova’s nomination to the post, according to Axios.

Sens. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) and Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) also oppose her nomination, according to Axios. Biden’s Treasury secretary Janet Yellen has also objected to the pick, the Wall Street Journal previously reported.

Omarova, a Cornell University law professor has courted controversy with eyebrow-raising academic writings on regulation, which include recently advocating for the end of banking “as we know it” by moving Americans’ finances from private banks to the Federal Reserve. 

Kyrsten Sinema.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema told Senate Banking Committee chair Sen. Sherrod Brown that she opposes Saule Omarova’s nomination.
Rod Lamkey/Pool/Getty Images

Omarova, who was born in Kazakhstan in the former Soviet Union and moved to the US in 1991 to pursue her Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin, has also slammed the culture on Wall Street as a “quintessential a–hole industry” and praised the former Soviet Union’s lack of a gender pay gap.

In a Senate confirmation hearing held last week before the Senate Banking committee, Republicans grilled Omarova and painted her as a radical socialist.

“I don’t know whether to call you professor or comrade,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) snarked at one point during the hearing.

Jon Tester.
Sen. Jon Tester said he has “significant concerns” about Saule Omarova’s policies
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

“I’m not a communist,” Omarova insisted. “I do not subscribe to that ideology. I could not choose where I was born.” 

The professor denounced the communist regime of the USSR in the hearing, saying, “We can never have a repetition of that communist system anywhere in the world.” 

Other members of the committee gave extreme critiques of Omarova, with Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) saying he could not “think of a nominee more poorly suited to be the comptroller of the currency based solely on [her] public positions, statements and the weight of [her] writings than [Omarova.]” 

In his opening remarks, committee ranking member Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) accused Omarova of a “long history of promoting ideas that she herself describes as ‘radical.’ I agree that they’re radical and they can fairly be described also as socialist.

John Hickenlooper.
Sen. John Hickenlooper also announced that he opposes Saule Omarova’s nomination.
Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

“She has a plan for the government, through the Fed, to replace the free market and setting what she calls, and I quote, ‘systemically important prices,’ end quote,” Toomey went on.

In his closing remarks, Toomey labeled Omarova’s policies and ideas as “consistent with a socialist view of a command and control economy,” saying she is promoting “anti-Democratic ideas.” 

Mark Kelly.
Sen. Mark Kelly joined the Democratic opposition.
Rod Lamkey/Pool/Getty Images

“The idea that we would put a person with these views as the chief regulator of America’s national banks with the enormous powers that I just delineated, this is what is deeply disturbing and chilling,” he added, urging his colleagues not to support the confirmation. 

Omarova also received hits from Democrats. In his line of questioning, Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mt.) said he has “significant concerns” about her policies and criticized the nominee for her previous opposition to a bipartisan regulatory relief he wrote in 2018. 

Tester also pressed Omarova on her public comments on the oil industry, particularly regarding bankrupting oil companies.

Dr. Saule Omarova listens during her nomination hearing.
Republicans grilled Saule Omarova and painted her as a radical socialist during her nomination hearing.
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

“I do not intend to advocate that kind of position,” she said, adding that she misspoke.

“That particular statement about oil and gas companies going bankrupt, as I said, that was taken out of context and I actually misspoke, it was not well framed. My intention was actually to say, exactly the opposite, that we need to help those companies to get restructured.”

The comment in question occurred in February during a “Social Wealth Seminar” event hosted by the Jain Family Institute. 

Mark Warner.
Sen. Mark Warner came out against Saule Omarova’s nomination.
Oliver Contreras/Pool/Getty Images

During the event, Omarova was filmed calling coal, oil and gas “troubled industries” in which “a lot of the small players … are going to probably go bankrupt.”

“At least, we want them to go bankrupt if we want to tackle climate change, right?” she said.

In a second clip, she appeared to echo that same sentiment saying “the way we basically get rid of those carbon financiers is we starve them of their sources of capital.”

Tim Scott.
Sen. Tim Scott said he could not “think of a nominee more poorly suited to be the comptroller of the currency” than Saule Omarova.
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Despite the criticism, the professor has garnered support, notably from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who has called the nomination “tremendous news.” 

“She is an excellent choice to oversee and regulate the activities of our nation’s largest banks and I have no doubt she’ll be a fearless champion for consumers,” Warren previously said in a statement.

Senate Banking Committee Chair Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) praised the professor’s experience as a “policymaker, in the private sector, and in academia,” urging his colleagues to support the nomination. 

Saule Omarova.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren called Saule Omarova’s nomination “an excellent choice” and believes she will be “a fearless champion for consumers.”
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

“Her experience as a policymaker, in the private sector, and in academia will allow her to work with stakeholders across our financial system to ensure the economy works for everyone, and to protect our economic recovery from the risky activities of Wall Street and other bad actors,” Brown said. 

“I call on my colleagues on the Banking and Housing Committee to support this historic nominee to this position critical to our economy.”

Omarova’s nomination the post comes after lefty Dems put the kibosh on Biden’s reported hopes to nominate Michael Barr, a key architect of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, for the job.

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