A number of key Senate Republicans are expressing openness to confirming conservative economist Stephen Moore to the Federal Reserve’s board of governors, a positive sign for the White House as aides gauge support for the controversial pick.
“If he’s nominated and confirmed, he would bring a new voice over to the Fed, and sometimes they need some new voices,” said Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), a senior member of the Banking Committee that would consider Moore’s nomination.
Moore in December called on President Trump to oust Fed Chair Jerome H. Powell, an explosive suggestion that came as White House officials were furious the central bank was slowly raising interest rates.
Moore said at the time that there was no need to raise interest rates because inflation was low, echoing sentiments expressed by Trump.
Moore served as a campaign adviser to Trump during the 2016 election and is very close with Larry Kudlow, director of the White House National Economic Council. Some critics of his appointment have expressed concern that he could make the Fed more political by serving more as an ally of the White House and less as a collaborator studying nuanced developments in the economy.
In a brief interview Monday, Moore said he regretted calling for Powell to be fired. He said he’s never met the central bank leader but would look forward to working with him if he’s confirmed.
“This was just said in a bit of anger,” Moore said of the December comments, which were made during a radio interview. “I’m actually looking forward to working with Powell and meeting him.”
If he goes to the Fed, Moore said, he hopes to be known as a “growth hawk,” supporting policies that “maximize growth and higher wages for workers.”
Trump has unloaded on the Fed and Powell for months, with the president even saying he regretted picking Powell for the job more than a year ago. Trump has alleged that because Powell led a campaign to slowly raise interest rates, he was running the risk of slowing economic growth. Moore has frequently agreed with this position.
After the December rate increase, Powell halted the Fed’s plans to raise rates in the near term. But he has also said that he doesn’t take political pressure into consideration when making decisions. Fed officials are concerned that economic growth could slow markedly this year amid pressure from issues in China and Europe, a sentiment shared by many economists.
Trump’s attacks against Powell and the Fed startled a number of lawmakers, particularly Republicans. Many have stressed that the central bank needs to be immune from political influence, but several said Monday that Moore’s past comments shouldn’t disqualify him. Moore has been a long-standing advocate of tax cuts and the belief that lower taxes will lead to large-scale economic growth, a sentiment that many Republicans share.
“Very intelligent guy, certainly has had some provocative comments in the past. But having known him for a while, I think he will serve well,” said Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), another Banking Committee member. “I think separating the rhetoric as a commentator from an actual member of the Federal Reserve, you’ll find him to be a very astute, contemplative thinker who has the ability to add value to the board.”
Shelby said he differed with Moore’s call for Powell’s ouster, but he played down that disagreement, saying, “We all have a lot of differences.”
Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) said that as the panel’s leader he did not want to prejudge Moore’s nomination, but “We’ll give it prompt attention, I can assure you.” Crapo said it was a priority to fill all seats on the Fed board.
Democrats, however, criticized the potential selection of Moore.
“Mr. Moore doesn’t have the background,” said Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.). “He’s a politician. He’s political. He’s always wanted, ‘Cut taxes, cut taxes, cut taxes.’ He’s one of the reasons we have such a big deficit right now, because of his advocacy.”
There are two open slots on the Fed’s seven-seat board of governors, and these officials vote on interest rate policy as well as bank regulatory decisions. Even though Trump said last week that he would be nominating Moore for the post, Trump hasn’t formally submitted the paperwork for the appointment. Once he’s nominated, the Senate Banking Committee will vote on whether to advance the appointment, and later it will come before the full Senate for consideration.
Moore was one of the founders of the Club for Growth, an organization created in 1999 that advocated for tax cuts and other free-market policies. He also has written for the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page and worked at the Heritage Foundation, among other things.
He’s a well-known media pundit and played a significant role in messaging the 2017 tax cut law in the media, and aides said he’s remained close to Trump during the presidency.
Past presidents have selected Fed governors with political backgrounds before, but there is little precedent for picking someone who had recently called for the ouster of the central bank chief.
His potential nomination hasn’t received unanimous support among conservatives.
N. Gregory Mankiw, a former top economic adviser during the George W. Bush administration, attacked Moore’s background in a blog post Friday and called on the Senate to oppose him.
“Steve is a perfectly amiable guy, but he does not have the intellectual gravitas for this important job,” wrote Mankiw, who is an economics professor at Harvard University.
Mankiw write a critical review of a recent book Moore co-wrote with economist Arthur Laffer called “Trumponomics,” alleging it was “rah-rah partisan.”
“The book’s over-the-top enthusiasm for U.S. President Donald Trump’s sketchy economic agenda is not likely to convince anyone not already sporting a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat,” the review said.
Moore wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal this month titled “The Fed is a threat to growth.” He also has said Trump deserved the 2018 Nobel Prize in economics.
Moore said he was “not sure why Greg doesn’t like me,” suggesting it might be because he “didn’t go to Harvard.”
Moore graduated from the University of Illinois and received his master’s degree in economics from George Mason University.
While Moore’s pedigree might worry some conservative economists who have backgrounds in past administrations, he has spent years working closely with Republican lawmakers, helping them design tax proposals and defending the ideas in public. Those sorts of relationships could prove crucial as he seeks to win support in the Senate.
Heather Long contributed to this article.