My friend Herman Cain, a truly wonderful man, has asked me not to nominate him for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board. I will respect his wishes. Herman is a great American who truly loves our Country!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 22, 2019
It’s an abrupt turnaround for the former Republican presidential candidate and Godfather’s Pizza executive who said just last week that he didn’t intend to drop out, despite growing Republican opposition.
In the end, it appears pushback from Senate Republicans, who expressed concerns about his politicized approach to policy and past allegations of sexual misconduct, was enough to take him out of contention. Trump had yet to officially nominate Cain for a seat on the Federal Reserve but floated the idea earlier this month.
Senate Republicans drew a line at the Cain nomination
Senate Republicans have helped usher through Cabinet and judicial nominees who’ve been accused of sexual assault, advocated the rollback of voting rights, and questioned the role humans play in climate change.
Cain, however, appears to have pushed the limits of Republicans’ willingness to stand by the president’s selections — particularly among those lawmakers who are already less likely to fall in line.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) was among the earliest Republicans to come out against Cain, saying he worried Cain’s presence would make the Fed a more partisan body, given the former executive’s longstanding political support for Trump. Romney argued earlier this month that Cain would likely help Trump fulfill his plans to slash interest rates and harm the independence of the institution guiding America’s monetary policy.
“I would like to see nominees that are economists first and not partisans. I think it’s important that the Fed be a nonpartisan entity,” Romney told Politico in an interview. “The key is that someone is outside of the political world and is an economic leader not a partisan leader.”
When asked about Cain and conservative economist Stephen Moore, another potential Fed nominee, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) simply laughed. “I hope the president will consider these nominations very carefully,” she told Vox. I’m not very enthused right now.”
Growing blowback against Cain’s nomination led Senate Republicans to stage a behind-the-scenes effort to prevent his selection from being formalized by the White House, Politico reported.
And four Republicans — Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Romney (R-UT), and Kevin Cramer (R-ND) — ultimately announced that they wouldn’t be voting in favor of Cain’s confirmation, effectively killing it.
Cramer, the fourth lawmaker to speak out, previously told the Hill that sexual misconduct allegations Cain has faced were the deciding factor for him.
“His showmanship doesn’t bother me, his business experience I think is great, simplifying the tax code is fine by me, but character still does matter,” he said.
Cain would have needed at least 50 votes to be confirmed in the Senate (with Vice President Mike Pence as a tie-breaker), and with four Republicans, of the party’s 53-person majority, stating their opposition, he was expected to fall short of that threshold.
Republicans seem less worried about Stephen Moore
Moore, the second person Trump has said he intends to appoint to the Fed, appears to be getting a warmer reception from Senate Republicans, even though he’s similarly controversial.
Democrats also view Moore, a current fellow at conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation, as a baldly political choice — and pointedly wonder whether someone who’s encountered personal finance issues in the past is qualified to help run the US’s central bank.
As Amanda Sakuma wrote for Vox, Moore was previously held in contempt of court for failing to pay child support and alimony to his ex-wife in the wake of their divorce settlement. He also owes more than $75,000 in taxes to the IRS, which he says he’s been paying back in the aftermath of what he claimed was a paperwork-related mishap, according to the Guardian.
Moore is also under fire for a series of sexist columns he wrote for the National Review in the early 2000s, which called for women to be barred from men’s sports events and questioned the need for equal pay for male and female athletes, CNN reports. Moore has since dismissed these pieces as a “spoof.”
Those issues, however, may not be disqualifying for all Senate Republicans; multiple lawmakers have mentioned that they were familiar with Moore and spoke positively of his consideration earlier this month.
“I know Stephen Moore. He’s a smart man. He’s the head of Club for Growth,” said Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL). “We have to do this in regular order, but I think he would probably be a good voice on the Fed. One, he’s got to be nominated first. Second, he’s got to be confirmed.”
“I said, ‘Pay your taxes; pay your support!’” Shelby said, when asked about Moore’s financial problems.
“Stephen is a solid guy, I know Stephen pretty well. I think Stephen has been right about a few things, with regard to the Fed’s treatment of interest rates, especially,” Cramer said. “I want to hear more about the specific issues surrounding some of his financial situations.”
The North Dakota senator added that he did not see Moore’s run-in with the IRS or the divorce settlement disqualifying him from the nomination if he has cleared up both issues.
All of these subjects are expected to get serious scrutiny during Moore’s confirmation process if he winds up being officially nominated by the White House, something Democrats vigorously oppose.
“Herman Cain was woefully unqualified to be on the Federal Reserve, and his failure to garner adequate support should not be used as a pathway by Senate Republicans to approve Stephen Moore, who is equally unqualified and perhaps more political,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.