Controversial Biden banking nominee drops out of contention after bruising hearing
S aule Omarova, President Joe Biden's pick for comptroller of the currency, has withdrawn herself from consideration.
Omarova faced broad opposition from the banking industry and Republicans, as well as skepticism from centrist Democrats, because of her controversial academic writings and proposals, including her advocacy for the end of banking “as we know it.”
The Cornell Law professor told Biden in a Tuesday letter that her nomination was "no longer tenable." Omarova's allies on Capitol Hill had accused her opponents of redbaiting, as she was born in the Soviet Union and attended Moscow State University.
"It was a great honor and a true privilege to be nominated by President Biden to lead the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency overseeing the U.S. national banking system," she said in a letter to the White House withdrawing from consideration.
During her November confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking Committee, Omarova also faced scrutiny over her recent comment that “we want” oil and gas companies to go bankrupt in order to fight climate change. She conceded during the hearing that she should not have framed her argument the way she did.
While Republicans in the hearing largely stuck to questioning her policy positions and academic writings, some probed for questions about her past, including details about her thesis from college.
“I don’t mean any disrespect, I don’t know whether to call you professor or comrade,” said GOP Sen. John Kennedy in an attack that drew condemnation from Democrats.
“Senator, I’m not a communist. I do not subscribe to that ideology. I could not choose where I was born,” she responded.
Biden responded to her withdrawal by invoking combative remarks about her nomination from some on the Right.
"As a strong advocate for consumers and a staunch defender of the safety and soundness of our financial system, Saule would have brought invaluable insight and perspective to our important work on behalf of the American people," the president said. "But unfortunately, from the very beginning of her nomination, Saule was subjected to inappropriate personal attacks that were far beyond the pale."
Democrats have a wire-thin majority in the Senate and can’t afford to lose even a single vote. In the days after Omarova's hearing, it was reported that centrist Democratic Sens. Jon Tester of Montana, Mark Warner of Virginia, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, John Hickenlooper of Colorado, and Mark Kelly of Arizona expressed opposition to her nomination.
This isn't the first Biden nominee to fall through. Neera Tanden's nomination for director of the Office of Management and Budget was withdrawn in light of Twitter posts she had made attacking lawmakers. Biden also withdrew David Chipman's nomination to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives over his gun control positions.
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