Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to publicly endorse Herman Cain for the Federal Reserve Board after signaling last week that the former pizza chain executive and 2012 Republican presidential candidate would struggle to get through the GOP-led Senate.
President Trump has said he wants to nominate Cain to the nation’s central bank, as well as conservative economist Stephen Moore, which would give him two allies on the Fed’s board to stake out the president’s interests.
McConnell (R-Ky.) punted Tuesday when asked by reporters whether he would support the nominations of Cain and Moore.
“Well, we’re going to look at whoever he sends up, and once he does, we’ll take a look at it,” McConnell told reporters.
McConnell’s noncommittal stance on Trump’s preferred picks, neither of whom have been officially nominated yet, suggests at minimum serious trepidation among Senate leadership that these men are worthy of consideration for such crucial financial roles.
Republicans have privately expressed concern that selecting ideological partisans to the board risks politicizing the Fed, which is designed to be an independent governing body. Also, neither man is particularly well-versed in monetary policy.
Additionally, Cain is tarred by sexual misconduct allegations that all but ended his presidential campaign in 2012. If Cain is nominated by Trump, that history would be a focal point of his confirmation hearings.
Cain has denied the accusations, but it is a very different political climate than the one he ran in seven years ago. In a post-Me Too era, Republicans will not be eager to bring up a Trump-backed nominee who will face scrutiny over his treatment of women.
Top Senate Republicans, including McConnell and Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.), have privately encouraged GOP senators to proactively relay their concerns to the White House if they hear about a potential nominee who would run into confirmation troubles in the Senate.
“I think it’d be really good if they consult ahead of time and find out. There are some names out there that aren’t confirmable. And we would tell them that, if asked,” Thune said Tuesday. “It certainly isn’t to their advantage to send somebody up here that’s not gonna be able to be confirmed.”
Erica Werner contributed to this report.