Director, Government Relations
On Tuesday, United States Senator Ben Ray Luján’s (D-NM) office announced the senator had suffered a stroke and was recovering from surgery. While he’s expected to make a full recovery, thank goodness, the impact of his absence from the Senate floor cannot be ignored.
With the Senate evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, every vote counts. When senators deadlock on the floor, Vice President Kamala Harris is counted on to cast the tie-breaking vote. Indeed, Harris broke 15 ties during her first year in office, the most ever by a Vice President during a single year.
Unlike the House, which adopted proxy voting during the pandemic, senators must be physically present to vote. Facing unified GOP opposition on most matters, without Senator Luján’s vote Democrats cannot muster enough votes to prevail even on questions that require a simple majority. This is particularly worrisome for Democrats considering the number of important nominations currently pending in the Senate.
It should be noted, however, that Republicans are not without their own Senate absences, and at any one time two GOP absences, like we saw last week, could empower Majority Leader Schumer with enough votes to overcome united GOP opposition without needing Senator Lujan’s vote.
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer has announced his retirement, effective at the conclusion of the Court’s current term in June. While a floor vote on Breyer’s replacement could be months away, the committee process could proceed in Sen. Lujan’s absence, so his absence may not cause a significant delay.
However, several important financial regulatory positions are currently awaiting Senate-confirmation, and Sen. Luján’s absence creates a predicament for the White House and Senate Democrats that, if extended for several months, could create further uncertainty and unpredictability for the financial industry.
Three Federal Reserve Board nominees received a hearing in the Senate Banking Committee this week: Sarah Bloom Raskin to serve as Vice Chair for Supervision, and Lisa Cook and Philip Jefferson to serve as Fed Board Governors. Judging by the reception they received from committee Republicans, it’s likely that one or two of them could fail to earn any GOP support in committee or in the full Senate. Since Rep. Lujan does not serve on the Banking Committee, its process can continue as before. Any delay in processing Banking Committee nominees would occur between the committee and the floor.
In addition to Fed Nominees Jerome Powell, Lael Brainard, Bloom Raskin, Cook, and Jefferson, other financial regulatory nominees are awaiting confirmation, including Todd Harper (NCUA), Sandra Thompson (FHFA), Caroline Pham (CFTC Commissioner), Summer Mursinger (CFTC Commissioner) Kristin Johnson (CFTC Commissioner) and Christy Goldsmith Romero (CFTC). Powell and Thompson would also serve as voting members of FSOC.
Lujan’s absence means, at least theoretically, Republicans at full numerical strength have the power to block all the President’s nominees on the Senate floor. But given the fact that most of his nominees have received at least some degree of GOP support, a full blockade of nominees is unlikely. But at a time when several important financial regulatory positions are awaiting Senate-confirmation, Sen. Luján’s absence creates a predicament for the White House and Senate Democrats that, if extended for several months, could create further uncertainty and unpredictability for the industry.
IPA will continue to update members on the confirmation process and status of these financial regulators. Please reach out to Chris Stromberg (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any questions.
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