Most of the other 45 Senate Democrats must wonder how Saule Omarova got nominated to a high-ranking Treasury position in the first place. Joe Biden’s choice for Comptroller of the Currency advocated as late as this fall to nationalize banking and put government in control of private capital. Omarova tried dancing around her earlier positions by claiming they were “academic” exercises, but Pat Toomey blew up that argument last week:
So did Tim Scott, who spent his entire five minutes quoting from Omarova’s writings — not from a foolishly idealistic youth, but again as recent as this year:
Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) to Biden's Comptroller of the Currency nominee: "I don't have any questions for you because there's nothing you can say today to undo what you've said for years, including this year." pic.twitter.com/ygIKJWkRZj
— Spencer Brown (@itsSpencerBrown) November 18, 2021
At the time, I wondered how long centrist Democrats would stand behind Omarova for Biden’s sake. The answer turned out to be less than a week, according to Axios, although they apparently were kind enough to use the holiday to ease the embarrassment to the White House:
Five Democratic senators have told the White House they won’t support Saule Omarova to head the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, effectively killing her nomination for the powerful bank-regulator position.
Why it matters: The defiant opposition from a broad coalition of senators reflects the real policy concerns they had with Omarova, a Cornell University law professor who’s attracted controversy for her academic writings about hemming in big banks. …
In phone call on Wednesday, Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), all members of the Senate Banking Committee, told Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) — the panel’s chairman — of their opposition.
They’re joined in opposing her by Sens. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) and Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.).
This wasn’t about “hemming in the big banks.” This was about hemming in all banking and putting it under control of the biggest bank, the Federal Reserve, so that Washington DC could dictate lending and grasp capital.
Interestingly, Joe Manchin’s name isn’t on this list, but you can bet he wasn’t going to vote for Omarova, for reasons which we’ll cover in a moment. There may still be other Senate Democrats who looked at what happened in Virginia and New Jersey this month and decided that an unreconstructed Marxist would be a tough sell back home. This is a total collapse and defeat for Biden in a fight he never should have waged in the first place.
Strategically, it was clever of the five to leak this late on the day before Thanksgiving. It gives the White House a day or two to withdraw Omarova without attracting too much attention. If they’re smart, they’ll do it today or tomorrow while people have their TVs tuned to football or Christmas movies, or while they go shopping on Black Friday. Will the White House get the hint? They let David Chipman twist in the wind for months, and at least for now, they’re standing by Biden’s “historic” nomination:
“The White House continues to strongly support her historic nomination,” a White House official told Axios.
Historic how? The first Moscow-trained economist to a high Treasury post, perhaps? If that’s a reference to Omarova’s gender, the fact that we currently have a woman running the entire Treasury seems to make that a minor point at best.
In the wake of this Axios scoop yesterday afternoon, a few people wondered why Omarova is considered so radical. Toomey and Scott do a good job of explaining it in the above clips, but in case that’s not enough, let’s take a look at another of Omarova’s pet proposals. Frustrated by Manchin’s refusal to sign onto massive social spending, Omarova proposed that an unelected and unaccountable bureau be allowed to seize and spend capital on its own without congressional approval:
Omarova, a law professor at Cornell whose nomination appears to be in jeopardy, made the comments in a May 20 roundtable discussion about her proposal for a “National Investment Authority.”
The purpose of the authority, which would be a government institution independent of Congress and the president, would be to direct public and private investments toward “vital infrastructure and the real economy.” Part of the reason it is necessary, Omarova argued at the roundtable, is members of Congress like Manchin, D-W.Va., who oppose massive government spending programs.
“It’s fine when, if we have a strong majority in Congress and we are sure that Congress will fund whatever we need, but we can never be sure of that,” she said.
“People like Joe Manchin, for example – supposed to be on the Democratic side – and yet feel very uncomfortable with big spending ideas, right?” Omarova continued. “To supplement that kind of fiscally constraint and politically constraint kind of spending, we need to make sure we have a strong public institution that can harness the existing abundant private capital and pull it in the right direction.”
That was just six months ago. This exposes Omarova’s “academic” dance for the sham that it was. Furthermore, such a bureau would require presidential appointment, which would essentially give the executive branch the power to fund itself and bypass Congress entirely. It would also create an extra-statutory taxing power to acquire that funding that also would bypass Congress.
That’s not just radical; it’s the demolition of the constitutional structure of federalism and its co-equal branches. It would either transform the presidency into a dictatorship, or the “National Investment Authority” itself into a ruling Politburo. It’s a recipe for authoritarianism on a scale unseen in America even before the revolution. This goes beyond mere socialism right into fascism, communism, or dictatorship. Omarova’s proposal is breathtaking for all the wrong reasons.
Now that Omarova’s toast — and she clearly is — one has to wonder how she got nominated in the first place. Was this Bernie Sanders’ idea? Did Biden even have a clue as to who Omarova is and what her values are? Finally, one also has to wonder whether the White House learned a lesson from Virginia and New Jersey. We’ll find out when Biden nominates the next candidate for this position.