Trump administration officials continue to face opposition from Republican members of the Senate Banking Committee for the nomination of Stephen Moore and Herman Cain to the Federal Reserve Board, an indication that both appointments face an uphill battle receiving confirmation, FOX Business has learned.
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Officials have been told by GOP senators on the committee that at least for now, there appears to be almost no support for Cain, a former GOP presidential candidate and pizza industry executive, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter. The appointment of Moore, a former opinion columnist and fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, has some support, but probably not enough to ensure Senate confirmation at the moment, this person added.
All Fed Board positions require a Senate confirmation.
The continued resistance to both potential nominations among Republicans involves several issues that GOP officials believe are problematic, from Cain’s alleged sexual misconduct, to Moore’s unpaid child support and taxes. Both personal issues have received significant media coverage of late.
Meanwhile, critics of both possible nominations say neither Cain nor Moore are sufficiently independent from the White House to serve on the board of directors of the country’s central bank, which is designed to set monetary policy without political interference.
For now, neither Cain nor Moore have been officially nominated by President Trump to serve on the Fed’s board; Trump has stated his preference for their nominations and administration officials continue publicly to back them to fill the seats through a Senate confirmation.
But doubts about the Senate approval are starting to grow as White House economic officials continue to meet with key GOP lawmakers, people with knowledge of the matter say. On Tuesday, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said "we're talking to a number of candidates, we always do" about the open Fed seats, while reiterating support for both Cain and Moore.
One possible candidate is Judy Shelton, an economic adviser to Trump, they say. Shelton declined comment.
Meanwhile, as reported by FOX Business, conservative groups are rallying around the nominations, particularly Moore’s, given his supply-side credentials and personal relationships with both Kudlow and Trump. Conservative groups tell FOX Business that they’ve been prodding Senate Majority Leader McConnell to shepherd both Moore, and to some extent Cain through the Senate.
But McConnell appears unconvinced on Cain, and still has lingering doubts about Moore, according to people with knowledge of the matter. When asked about both potential nominations, a spokesman for McConnell referred FOX Business to a statement the majority leader made last week: “There are two things the administration ought to consider before nominating someone: First a background check and second, likelihood of confirmation. And generally better to check that up in advance before you send that nomination up” he said.
A White House spokesman did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Cain, for his part, is not a trained economist, though he has served as a director, deputy chairman and chairman of the Kansas City Fed from 1992 through 1996. He is best known as the chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza, and for his ill-fated run for president in 2012. He co-founded America Fighting Back PAC, but stepped away when he was nominated for the Federal Reserve Board, a Cain spokeswoman tells FOX Business.
But Cain’s personal life may be a bigger complication for his nomination, the FOX Business Network has learned. Cain has been accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women. Cain has denied the allegations though he dropped out of the 2012 presidential election when they surfaced.
In an interview with FOX Business's Varney & Co. on Thursday, Cain said he will not withdraw from consideration for the Fed board seat. “I never said that I was even considering withdrawing,” he said. “That was a conclusion that some of the reports came to because four senators expressed reservations. Well their reservations do not cause me to run away.”
Moore, meanwhile, received a Master’s in Economics from George Mason University and is considered one of the nation’s foremost supply-side advocates who believe cutting taxes can spur economic growth and cut the deficit as businesses grow and employment expands. He developed President Trump’s tax-cut plan, which has both boosted the economy and his standing among Republicans in Congress.
But most of his work experience comes as a polemicist both as an editorial writer for the Wall Street Journal and a policy wonk for Heritage Foundation, not as a trained economist, critics point out.
Moore also reportedly owes the IRS $75,000 in unpaid taxes and penalties, and failed to pay more than $300,000 in alimony and child support, to his ex-wife Allison Moore.
Moore maintains the tax issue was a filing error and claims the auditor won’t respond, making it impossible to resolve the issue.
Neither Cain nor Moore responded to a request for comment on this report.
The Federal Reserve Board, led by Chairman Jerome Powell, is the main governing body of the nation’s central bank. The Fed sets the country’s monetary policy by controlling interest rates and is designed to be independent of other branches of government, even as the president appoints its chairman and board members. Currently, there are two vacancies on the Fed board that Trump wants Cain and Moore to fill, if they could be confirmed by the Senate.
But the president believes he can remove the chairman for what he believes is “cause” as Trump has threatened to do with Powell after the Fed chair began to raise interest rates late last year, sparking a market selloff. During an interview with CBS’ 60 Minutes last month, Powell disputed Trump’s claims, saying he can’t be fired and the law protects his 4-year term.
Trump has made no secret of his desire to push the Fed to adopt what’s known as an easy-money low interest rate policy as the 2020 election approaches, and both Cain and Moore are seen as allies in that effort if they can be confirmed.
But given the backlash even among Republicans, some sources close to the president believe the administration may choose to keep the seats vacant for the rest of Trump’s term rather than use up political capital to get the two candidates confirmed.