You’d expect some harrumphing about a Trump nominee from Mitt Romney or Susan Collins. You wouldn’t expect it from a crony as loyal as Graham unless the nomination is on life support.
If you’d asked me two weeks ago to wager on whether a Republican Senate would stonewall not one but two Trump nominees for the Fed’s board of governors, I wouldn’t have even asked for odds. *Maybe* they’d bork Herman Cain, I’d have said, but only as part of a compromise in which Stephen Moore ends up confirmed.
Two weeks later, Cain is out and Moore looks to be DOA.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) warned on Tuesday that Stephen Moore’s nomination to the Federal Reserve Board would be “very problematic,” marking the latest warning shot from Republicans on Capitol Hill.
“It will be a very problematic nomination,” Graham, a top Senate ally of President Trump’s, told reporters.
Asked if he would not support Moore, Graham said that he was still reviewing him.
Either the Senate GOP is growing bolder in resisting Trump despite the fact that we’re getting closer to an election or they’re giving special scrutiny to Fed nominations. Fed governors are supposed to be insulated from partisan politics, more like judges than executive branch apparatchiks, and Trump made two partisan choices in Moore and Cain. Fed picks aren’t high-profile the way cabinet members and SCOTUS appointees are either, which may have reassured McConnell’s caucus that they could get away with standing up to Trump here. There just aren’t enough members of Trump’s base who care about the Fed to get exercised about this.
Graham won’t be the deciding vote against a Trump nominee, but if he’s leaning towards no then there are bound to be others who are already there. It’d only take four Republicans to bork him. I’m looking around for a whip count and can’t find anyone yet who’s a hard no but there are plenty of discouraging asides, with Joni Ernst saying she’s “very unlikely” to support Moore in light of some of his old columns about women. Collins refrained from ruling him out when asked but didn’t sound enthused either, saying of Moore that it “appears that he has a lot of personal financial issues as well as troubling writings about women and our role in society and sports and also how he views the Federal Reserve.” Murkowski and Shelley Moore Capito also seemed grim. If they all vote against him, Moore’s done. Another unnamed Republican senator said flatly, “I don’t imagine he can get the votes.”
The White House is now reviewing Moore’s writings, which is a good thing to do 39 days after you’ve nominated someone and he’s already hanging by a thread in the Senate. Part of me wonders how much of the dirt being leaked on Moore is coming from Democrats and how much is coming from McConnell’s orbit, on the theory that it’s far less damaging to the party to tear him down and get him to drop out before he comes before the Senate than to do it during a confirmation hearing, before the cameras. The many leaks about skeletons in Moore’s closet may be Republicans’ way of quietly vetting Moore in public because Trump and his team neglected to do it before the nomination was announced:
During a 2016 debate on the minimum wage, for example, Mr. Moore talked about how to get more Americans into the labor force. In a serious tone, Mr. Moore said he would like to see more preteens working.
“I’m a radical on this,” he said. “I’d get rid of a lot of these child labor laws. I want people starting to work at 11, 12.”…
In 2014, Mr. Moore wrote a column for National Review, in which he said women earning more than men “could be disruptive to family stability.” Asked about that column on Sunday, Mr. Moore did not apologize, but said that strong economic growth under Mr. Trump was helping women and was the best way to reduce the gender pay gap…
He has also made jokes with racial overtones. Shortly after Mr. Trump was elected president, Mr. Moore broke from a talk about health care to tell his audience a joke about the departing first family. “By the way, did you see, there’s that great cartoon going along?” he said. “A New York Times headline: ‘First Thing Donald Trump Does as President Is Kick a Black Family Out of Public Housing,’ and it has Obama leaving the White House. I mean, I just love that one. Just a great one.”
Schumer would love to spend a few days of CSPAN airtime talking about the latest Trump nominee’s racial jokes and skepticism of child-labor laws. Getting Moore to drop out now would end the problem at a moment when this nomination is still off the radar of everyone except political news junkies. Kellyanne Conway was a good soldier for the White House today, vouching for Moore’s respect for women based on her long working relationship with him, but I’ll be surprised at this point if he lasts the week. (CNN’s latest piece highlighting Moore’s bon mots about women hit the Internet just a few hours ago.) In fact, I wonder if McConnell is quietly nudging Moore’s critics in the Senate at this point to issue firm statements opposing the nominee in order to speed that process up. There were four Republicans on record opposing Cain when he finally withdrew, ostensibly because he realized that he’d have to take a pay cut if he joined the Fed. All it’d take are four more to nudge Moore to give up.
Update: Don’t bother, Ernst tells Trump:
Sen ERNST on Stephen Moore: "No, he does not have the votes."
"He would not have enough votes. Don’t bother sending (the nomination) up, that’s all I gotta say," she says.
— Frank Thorp V (@frankthorp) April 30, 2019