Biden’s OCC pick to testify Thursday in front of Senate banking panel

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Dive Brief:

  • Saule Omarova, President Joe Biden’s nominee for the comptroller of the currency, is scheduled to testify in front of the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday.
  • Omarova’s nomination has generated controversy ever since the Biden administration tapped her for the role in September.
  • The Cornell University law professor’s academic writings on nationalizing retail banking, as well as recently surfaced comments regarding the fossil fuel industry, have sparked pushback from Republicans. Omarova’s views have also generated concerns from some moderate Democrats, a development that could jeopardize her chances for confirmation in an evenly divided Senate.

Dive Insight:

Omarova’s hearing, scheduled to take place at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, comes as some moderate Democrats have joined Republicans and the banking industry in expressing concerns with her ideology.

“Some of Ms. Omarova’s past statements about the role of government in the financial system raise real concerns about her ability to impartially serve at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and I’m looking forward to meeting with her to discuss them,” Sen. Jon Tester, D-MT, told Fox Business on Tuesday.

At least three Senate Democrats — Tester, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia — recently raised concerns over Omarova’s nomination with the White House, according to Axios.

Moderate Democrats’ growing reservations with Omarova come as Republicans have opposed her selection from the start.

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-PA, the Senate banking panel’s ranking member and one of Omarova’s fiercest critics, told Axios, “Republicans will overwhelmingly oppose this self-described radical.”

Meanwhile, resurfaced comments Omarova made during the Jain Family Institute’s Social Wealth Seminar in March regarding climate change and the energy sector have further fueled conservative opposition to her nomination.

“A lot of the smaller players [in the coal, oil and gas industries] are going to probably go bankrupt in short order, at least we want them to go bankrupt if we want to tackle climate change,” she said during the nonprofit research organization’s seminar, according to Newsweek.

During the 68-minute seminar, Omarova continued to say bankruptcies in the energy sector would create “a loss of jobs” as well as “a lot of displacement and economic fall back that we cannot afford,” according to Newsweek. 

Republicans were quick to push back on her comments. 

“These are people’s lives, people are going to lose their jobs because she’s going to support policies that are there to drive them out of work,” Thomas Jones, founder of the conservative research group the American Accountability Foundation (AAF) — which tweeted out the clip — told The Daily Caller

The American Bankers Association (ABA) has also taken issue with Omarova’s nomination.

ABA President and CEO Rob Nichols said in September the bank trade group has “serious concerns about her ideas for fundamentally restructuring the nation’s banking system.”

Despite reports of concerns from some Democratic senators, the White House said it still fully supports Omarova’s nomination.

“Saule Omarova is eminently qualified and was nominated for this role because of her lifetime of work on financial regulation, including in the private sector, in government and as a leading academic in the field. The White House continues to strongly support her historic nomination,” a White House official told Fox Business on Tuesday. 

If confirmed, Omarova, who served in the Treasury Department during the George W. Bush administration, would helm an agency that has been without a permanent head since Joseph Otting stepped down in May 2020.

She would also be the first woman and first person of color to head the OCC, which regulates more than 1,000 of the nation’s banks.