Republican concern could doom Trump's Fed pick Moore

Washington (AFP) –


Several Senate Republicans expressed concern or outright opposition Wednesday to conservative pundit Stephen Moore gaining a seat on the US Federal Reserve board, potentially torpedoing President Donald Trump's pick before his official nomination.

Five of the 53 Republicans in the 100-member chamber told AFP there were serious problems with Trump's choice of Moore, adding to the concerns that at least two other Republican senators shared with reporters in recent days.

Trump has repeatedly ignored norms designed to protect the Fed's independence from political influence, which could undermine its credibility, and his nominations of Moore as well as the now-withdrawn Hermain Cain led some to see an attempt to bring pressure from the inside.

Senator Joni Ernst hardened her opposition after the emergence of articles and speeches by Moore over the years, some of which have been criticized as sexist or trafficked in racism.

"I'm a no," she said.

Ernst, who this year divulged that she suffered a sexual assault, is seen as an important voice on the nomination, particularly among Republican women.

Senator Susan Collins said she will wait to see whether Moore gets nominated before deciding how she will vote, but "some of his writings about women I find offensive, and I'm concerned about whether he respects the independence of the Federal Reserve."

If Democrats unanimously oppose Moore, he could endure only three Republican defections.

Moore, a 59-year-old economic expert and political commentator, advised Trump when he was running for president and has publicly expressed his opposition to raising interest rates.

The powerful Fed board of governors raised interest rates last December -- a move that angered Trump and Moore -- but it kept the rates unchanged Wednesday, as expected.

The White House said Monday it was reviewing Moore's past writings, and Moore himself has engaged in a television public relations blitz -- rare for someone being considered for the Fed -- aimed at salvaging his possible nomination.

But one Republican senator suggested those efforts would be wasted.

"He's not going to get nominated," assured the senator, who spoke on background because of the sensitivity of discussing the president's plans.

Several Republicans including presidential ally Senator Lindsey Graham were on record expressing concerns about the Moore pick.

"I've got questions about his statements, serious questions," said Senator Shelley Moore Capito.

Moore faced scrutiny this week with the resurfacing of his comments in 2016, shortly after the election, when during a speech he mentioned a cartoon with a headline that Moore described as: "First thing Donald Trump does as president is kick a black family out of public housing."

"I shouldn't have said it," Moore told PBS News on Tuesday.

Trump faced a Fed setback last week when Cain, the former pizza chain executive picked by the president for a second empty Fed seat, withdrew his candidacy after four Republicans went public with their opposition.