Senate Confirms Fed Economist Waller to Board Seat -- 2nd Update
By Nick Timiraos
The Senate confirmed one of President Trump's picks Thursday to
a vacancy on the Federal Reserve's board of governors in a vote
that reflected increased partisan tensions over issues related to
the looming change in presidential administrations.
Christopher Waller, the research director at the Federal Reserve
Bank of St. Louis, was confirmed on a 48-47 vote to a term that
runs through January 2030. He has attended meetings of the
rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee this year in his
capacity at the St. Louis Fed. He headed the University of Notre
Dame's economics department before joining the regional Fed bank in
Analysts said the largely party-line confirmation vote may have
had less to do with specific objections to Mr. Waller's
qualifications, but showed Democrats' broader frustrations with how
the Trump administration has managed financial-policy and personnel
issues during the lame-duck period. For example, the Treasury
Department last month declined to renew emergency Fed lending
facilities that will expire on Dec. 31.
Five of 12 Democrats had voted in July to advance Mr. Waller's
nomination out of the Senate Banking Committee, but he received no
backing from Democrats on Thursday. One Republican, Sen. Rand Paul
of Kentucky, also opposed his confirmation.
The confirmation marked the first time the Senate had seated a
governor in a lame-duck period that follows the November election
before the president's term ends in January, according to Peter
Conti-Brown, a Fed historian at the University of Pennsylvania.
"Much has changed since the summer committee vote. Most
important, Joe Biden has clearly defeated Donald Trump," said Carl
Tobias, who teaches constitutional law at the University of
Richmond's School of Law.
Democrats have criticized recent Trump administration moves,
such as declining to renew Fed lending facilities, as steps that
could undermine the incoming Biden administration, making Democrats
less amenable to cooperate on lame-duck confirmations for positions
that will last a decade, such as Mr. Waller's, said Mr. Tobias.
Mr. Waller's confirmation was secured with fewer votes for any
Fed governor since at least 1980. Party-line votes for Fed board
positions hadn't previously occurred, reflecting the central bank's
normally apolitical nature.
The Trump administration had struggled to secure support for
five earlier selections, three of which were formally submitted for
Senate confirmation, to fill two vacancies. The nomination of Judy
Shelton, an economic commentator who previously served as U.S.
envoy to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development,
failed to advance during a procedural vote two weeks ago.
Mr. Trump announced his intention to nominate Mr. Waller and Ms.
Shelton in July 2019, a period in which he was upset that the Fed
wasn't moving faster to cut interest rates. The White House had
discussed a possible appointment with St. Louis Fed President James
Bullard, who in June 2019 had dissented from the Fed's decision to
hold rates steady, preferring a cut.
Mr. Bullard recommended the White House consider for the job his
research director, Mr. Waller, according to people familiar with
"Chris has served superbly as the St. Louis Fed's director of
research," Mr. Bullard said in a statement Thursday. "He
exemplifies the bank's longstanding tradition of thought-leadership
in monetary policy and macroeconomic research."
Mr. Waller's nomination received relatively little attention
because it was paired with the selection of Ms. Shelton. All
Democrats and some Republicans voiced concerns about her heterodox
policy views -- she has been a longtime advocate for returning to a
gold standard. Some also expressed concern that she had abandoned
her staunch support for tighter monetary policy to secure Mr.
Write to Nick Timiraos at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
December 03, 2020 17:11 ET (22:11 GMT)
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