President Biden’s pick to become one of the Treasury’s top bank regulators has withdrawn her name from consideration after strong pushback against her “radical” views on economics and climate change.
In a letter Tuesday to Mr. Biden, Saule Omarova said her nomination was “no longer tenable” after a contentious Senate hearing that focused on her academic writings that advocated anti-capitalist views and, according to Democrats, her Soviet birth.
Ms. Omarova‘s chance of confirmation in the evenly split Senate was doomed as both Democrats and Republicans pulled their support.
“It was a great honor and a true privilege to be nominated by President Biden to lead the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency overseeing the U.S. national banking system,” she said in the letter.
The president Tuesday afternoon officially withdrew Ms. Omarova’s nomination to the Senate.
“As a strong advocate for consumers and a staunch defender of the safety and soundness of our financial system, Saule would have brought invaluable insight and perspective to our important work on behalf of the American people. But unfortunately, from the very beginning of her nomination, Saule was subjected to inappropriate personal attacks that were far beyond the pale,” Mr. Biden said in a statement.
Mr. Biden pledged to find another nominee for the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, adding that he will make an announcement at a future date.
At a Senate Banking Committee hearing, senators of both parties drew attention to the Cornell Law School professor’s calls to “end banking as we know it” and claims that “we want” the fossil fuel business to go bankrupt.
Ms. Omarova, who was nominated last month, called for shirking banks and expanding the role of the Federal Reserve into the consumer banking industry. Republicans and some moderate Democrats bristled at her ideas, saying they would hurt businesses.
She also remarked earlier this year that smaller oil and gas companies should go bankrupt to help reduce climate change.
A group of community lenders and other financial industry businesses had lobbied against her nomination. But in the end, it was likely opposition from moderate democrats that likely sank Ms. Omarova’s nomination.
A group of centrist Democrats, including Sens. Jon Tester of Montana, Mark Warner of Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, all expressed their opposition to the nomination in a phone conversation last month with Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown, Ohio Democrat, according to media reports.
During a Nov. 18 hearing, Mr. Tester pressed Ms. Omarova about her comments on the oil and gas industry. She said that she had misspoken and didn’t frame her remarks clearly.
“My intention was exactly the opposite,” she said during the hearing. “We need to help those companies get restructured.”
The White House never addressed the criticism directed at Ms. Omarova.
She had two big defenders in Mr. Brown and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat, who are members of the party’s far-left wing. Both pitched her as a banking expert who would stand up to banks, ending what they viewed as Washington’s deferential attitude toward banks in recent years. They said she would have worked to make the financial system work for consumers.
The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is an independent bureau of the Treasury Department. It oversees about 1,200 banks with total assets of $14 trillion, about two-thirds of the total in the U.S. banking system.
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