Coronavirus Threatens To Derail Fed Nominee’s Confirmation

(Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

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Andrew Trunsky Political Reporter
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President Donald Trump’s pick for the Federal Reserve Board of Governors could be in jeopardy after one senator tested positive for coronavirus and another announced he would self-quarantine after being exposed.

Judy Shelton’s nomination failed in the Senate yesterday 47-50 after Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Rick Scott began their self-isolation periods. Hours after the vote, Grassley announced that he tested positive for the virus, forcing him to miss his first vote in the chamber since 1993 and possibly keeping him off the floor for days to come.

Even before Grassley and Scott’s announcements, Shelton’s margin of support was already thin. Republican Senators Lamar Alexander, Mitt Romney and Susan Collins had already announced their opposition to her confirmation, according to The Hill, meaning that even if the 50 other Senate Republicans voted in favor, Vice President Mike Pence would have to cast a tie-breaking vote if every Democrat voted against it.

“I oppose the nomination of Judy Shelton because I am not convinced that she supports the independence of the Federal Reserve as much as I believe the Board of Governors should,” Alexander said in a statement Monday.

WASHINGTON, DC – FEBRUARY 13: Judy Shelton testifies before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee (Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

While Alexander did not vote at all Tuesday, Romney and Collins were joined by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in opposing Shelton’s nomination, though McConnell’s “no” vote was a procedural move which allows him to bring her nomination up for a vote at a later date.

Despite the additional opportunity to confirm Shelton, however, her nomination is far from guaranteed. Republicans not only need Grassley or Scott to return to the floor to vote in favor Shelton’s confirmation, but also need hold the vote before Arizona Democratic Senator-elect Mark Kelly, who would almost certainly oppose Shelton’s confirmation, is sworn in at the end of November.

The Senate is also set to go out of session next week, meaning that McConnell would likely have to bring her nomination up for a vote over the Thanksgiving holiday when most senators are back in their respective states.

Unlike the House of Representatives, the Senate never allowed for proxy and online voting due to the coronavirus pandemic, meaning that Grassley and Scott would have to break their self-isolation periods if McConnell held vote before the Senate goes out of session Saturday. (RELATED: Liz Cheney Blasts Pelosi’s Adoption Of Proxy Voting)

Shelton has advocated for returning to the gold standard and disagreed with the Fed’s 2% target inflation rate and its stated goal to adjust interest rates to yield maximum employment. Recently, however, she abandoned her views and called for cuts to the interest rate, mirroring calls by Trump, as she emerged as a candidate for the open Board of Governors’s seat, according to Bloomberg.

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