Nominees for Fed, OCC see action; NCUA candidate soon?

(Nov. 20, 2020) Two federal banking agencies saw action for their leadership futures this week, as a nominee for one barely failed to be confirmed to the position and another was nominated for a permanent position.

However, further progress for the two candidates – at the Federal Reserve and OCC, respectively — seems doubtful at this stage.

Meanwhile, the Senate could consider the nomination of Kyle S. Hauptman for the NCUA Board as early as the week following Thanksgiving.

On the Federal Reserve nomination: The Senate failed to confirm nominee Judy Shelton on a vote of 47-50, which was marked by bipartisan opposition to her confirmation. Shelton has proved to be a controversial candidate to sit on the central bank board: in the past, she has drawn controversy and some criticism for her expressed views about reinstituting the gold standard, questioning the effectiveness of federal deposit insurance, and the Fed’s independence from political influence.

Republican senators had vowed to consider her confirmation again (which was hobbled the first time by three senators outright expressing or voting in opposition to her, and others not available to vote after quarantining for Covid-19 exposure or infection). However, the Senate recessed Wednesday evening for the Thanksgiving holiday and won’t return until the afternoon of Nov. 30 (the Monday after Thanksgiving). That timing places Shelton’s confirmation in further doubt – on that day, the Democrats gain an additional member, Senator-elect Mark Kelly (Ariz.), who won a special election over incumbent Martha McSally (R ) Nov. 3. All Democrats have vowed to oppose Shelton’s confirmation.

On top of that, time is running short for the Senate to consider her nomination again in the coming weeks, as the current Congress winds down (and the Christmas and New Year holiday breaks loom). The new Congress will take its seats Jan. 3.

Also this week, President Donald Trump nominated Acting Comptroller of the Currency Brian P. Brooks to take the job (that is, remove the “acting” from his title) for a five-year term. Brooks was appointed to his current position by Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin; he was not been confirmed by the Senate.

But the outlook for Brooks’ confirmation is similar to Shelton’s, with an added twist: In addition to growing Democratic opposition, and a dwindling calendar, Brooks will be subject to a Senate Banking Committee hearing on his nomination before he can be considered by the full Senate. Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (Ohio) has already questioned Brooks’ qualifications for the comptroller’s job; Brooks has held the acting title only since late May, and joined the OCC in April.

Nevertheless, press reports indicated late this week that Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) intends to hold a hearing on the Brooks nomination. Further, reports also indicated that the Senate is also preparing to take up the confirmation of another (less controversial) Federal Reserve Board nominee, Christopher Waller, before Congress ends.

Meanwhile, late this week (after the Senate had already recessed for the holiday), the Senate leader published his Executive Calendar for Monday, Nov. 30 – which includes consideration of cutting off debate on the nomination of Kyle S. Hauptman to take a seat on the NCUA Board. President Trump tapped Hauptman in June to take the seat now held by Board Member Mark McWatters. He has been serving in a holdover capacity since his term expired in August, 2019.

Senate Executive Calendar, Nov. 20, 2020