Republicans Cast Financial Nominee as Radical

Democrats defend Saule Omarova, Biden's choice for banking regulator
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 18, 2021 6:05 PM CST
Biden Pick Says She'd Advocate for Small Banks
Presidential nominee Saule Omarova testifies Thursday on Capitol Hill.   (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

President Biden's choice to become one of the top banking regulators endured a contentious nomination hearing Thursday, with Republican senators warning she would nationalize the US banking system and Democrats saying she's eminently qualified and would be a tough overseer of Wall Street. Saule Omarova, 55, was nominated in September to be the nation's next head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. If confirmed, the AP reports, she would be the first woman and person of color to run the 158-year-old agency.

Omarova is a longtime academic and well-regarded expert on financial regulation, but many Republicans and the banking industry have taken issue with papers she published in which she proposed wholesale changes to the banking system. On Thursday, Omarova fielded questions about her academic writings and whether she would have the power to implement those proposals. Democrats focused on blunting the GOP attacks. “Taken in totality, her ideas do amount to a socialist manifesto for American financial services,” said Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. The banking lobby is overwhelmingly against the nomination, with opposition coming from both the big Wall Street institutions and smaller community banks.

The nominee said this week that their opposition is largely due to fears that she would be a tough regulator for Wall Street and the banks. During the hearing, Omarova said she would advocate for smaller banks and keep a close eye on the large banks that tend to outcompete smaller institutions. "I wish the community bankers and their trade associations actually read more carefully what I have written," Omarova said. At one point, Republican Sen. John Kennedy said, "I don't know whether to call you professor or comrade." The comment elicited gasps in the hearing room and, later, a rebuke from the chairman of the committee, Sen. Sherrod Brown. (More Office of the Comptroller of the Currency stories.)

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