Biden Nominee Withdraws Name to Lead OCC Banking Watchdog
(Bloomberg) -- The White House’s pick to lead a key U.S. banking regulator has withdrawn her name from consideration, with President Joe Biden citing “inappropriate personal attacks” as undermining her candidacy.
Biden accepted Saule Omarova’s request to abandon the appointment to run the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, according to a Tuesday statement. Her nomination triggered aggressive opposition from Republican lawmakers and bank lobbyists, while revealing divisions among Democrats.
The Biden administration must now begin again the process to name a regulator of U.S. national banks including JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc. At least two previous potential candidates were abandoned during earlier vetting.
“I deeply value President Biden’s trust in my abilities and remain firmly committed to the administration’s vision of a prosperous, inclusive, and just future for our country,” Omarova wrote in a letter requesting her withdrawal.
While Biden’s choice of an outspoken Wall Street and cryptocurrency critic delighted progressive groups and lawmakers such as Senator Elizabeth Warren, the choice appeared to be too controversial to win backing from moderate Democrats that the candidate would need in the evenly divided Senate.
Republican lawmakers and industry detractors had highlighted her origin in Soviet Union-era Kazakhstan, her studies in Moscow and her academic research advocating for a fundamental overhaul of the financial system. John Kennedy, a GOP senator from Louisiana, asked Omarova during her confirmation hearing whether he should call her “comrade.”
Her defenders said the personal attacks on Omarova were unfair, and that she was a well-qualified nominee. Omarova would have been the first woman and non-White person to hold the job.
“From the very beginning of her nomination, Saule was subjected to inappropriate personal attacks that were far beyond the pale,” Biden said in a statement that also touted the Cornell Law School professor as a “strong advocate for consumers and a staunch defender of the safety and soundness of our financial system.”
At her confirmation hearing, moderate Democrats including Jon Tester of Montana and Mark Warner of Virginia expressed concerns about Omarova’s views on financial regulation.
For her part, Omarova has said that she rejects communism as “deeply flawed,” and called herself a “free-market idealist.” She said she was surprised by the “depravity” of the attacks on her nomination. She’s also praised the U.S. banking system as the best in the world and insisted her academic writings were thought experiments that weren’t necessarily meant as a practical blueprint.
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