Senate blocks controversial Trump nominee to Fed board

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Washington — The Senate on Tuesday failed to advance the nomination of Judy Shelton, President Trump’s controversial choice for the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, stalling her nomination to the central bank with just weeks left in the president’s term.

The vote to limit debate on Shelton’s nomination failed by a vote of 47 to 50, with two Republicans joining Democrats in opposition to her nomination in the simple-majority vote. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell initially cast his vote in favor of limiting debate, but switched it to a “no” vote in a procedural move that allows him to bring the nomination up for consideration at a later date.

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris returned to the Capitol for the first time since the presidential election to cast her vote against moving forward with Shelton’s nomination. 

Because of the absence of three Republican senators, Harris’ vote took on particular importance. Senator Dick Durbin told Bloomberg News earlier on Tuesday that Senate Democrats had specifically requested her presence for the vote. Harris’ Senate staff confirmed to CBS News that she received an intelligence briefing and left the Capitol after the vote.

In addition to opposition from Senate Democrats, Shelton’s nomination was criticized by several economists and former members of the Fed board. She has previously expressed support for reinstating the gold standard and indicated in past writings that she believes the historically independent Fed should become more political.

Although most Senate Republicans have yet to acknowledge that President-elect Joe Biden won the election, Harris appeared to receive a warm welcome from her GOP colleagues on the Senate floor. Harris exchanged fist bumps with Senators Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham, who has been one of the most vocal defenders of President Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud.

Two Republicans, Senators Susan Collins and Mitt Romney, voted against proceeding with Shelton’s nomination. GOP Senator Chuck Grassley missed the vote, his first absence in 27 years, after he was exposed to the coronavirus. Republican Senator Rick Scott also missed the vote because of the virus, and Senator Lamar Alexander, who said he opposed the nomination, was absent because of a family matter.

Democrats also criticized Shelton for flip-flopping on her position on low interest rates, opposing them while President Barack Obama was in office and then supporting them during Mr. Trump’s tenure. Shelton’s nomination was approved by the Senate Finance Committee by a party line vote in July.

If McConnell reschedules a vote on Shelton’s nomination for next month, it still may fail. Senator-elect Mark Kelly of Arizona, a Democrat, is likely to join the Senate when it reconvenes after Thanksgiving, potentially leaving Shelton’s nomination without the 50 votes needed to move forward.

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