Key Republican says to consider Fed nominees on merits

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 31, 2012 3:29 PM
Key Republican says to consider Fed nominees on merits

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A leading Senate Republican on Tuesday said President Barack Obama's nominees to the U.S. central bank should be considered on their merits, suggesting bad blood over recent "recess" appointments would not derail them.

The White House bypassed Congress to install Richard Cordray as head of a controversial Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, raising hackles among Republican lawmakers who had been blocking him and raising the specter of retribution.

Some analysts speculated that Republicans would move to block Obama's two nominees to the Federal Reserve board, Harvard economist Jeremy Stein and investment banker Jerome Powell.

However, Senator Richard Shelby, the top Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, indicated Republicans were prepared to consider the nominations.

"We will look at their background," Shelby told reporters after a hearing. "We have done preliminary work on it, and I think we ought to consider every nominee on his merits, and will be this (time) too."

Shelby, as the top Republican on the banking panel, would likely play a leading role in advising Republicans on whether to hold up the Fed nominations or not. His objections scuttled the prospects of a previous Obama nominee to the Fed, MIT economist Peter Diamond.

Since Powell served in the Treasury Department under Republican President George H.W. Bush, his nomination may be easier for Republicans to swallow.

Indeed, the decision to present a twin slate -- one Democrat and one Republican -- was widely viewed as an effort to smooth the political waters.

(Reporting By Mark Felsenthal; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)