Dec 7, 2021 - Economy

Biden's pick to lead major banking regulator drops out

Saule Omarova, nominee for Comptroller of the Currency, at a confirmation hearing on Nov. 18. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

President Biden's pick to head one of the country's most powerful banking regulators is dropping out of consideration for the post, according to a statement from Biden that accepted the withdrawal.

Why it matters: Saule Omarova, nominated to lead the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, faced a tough path to confirmation — with opposition from Republicans and moderate Democrats.

  • The withdrawal means that the OCC — charged with overseeing lenders whose assets make up two-thirds of the banking system's total — will continue on without a permanent head for the foreseeable future.

What they're saying: "Saule would have brought valuable insight and perspective to our important work on behalf of the American people. But unfortunately, from the very beginning of her nomination, Saule was subjected to inappropriate personal attacks that were far beyond the pale," Biden said in the statement.

Catch up quick: Republicans targeted Omarova — a Cornell University law professor and vocal critic of the banking industry — for her upbringing in the former Soviet Union and accused her of wanting to nationalize the bank sector.

  • In a testy confirmation hearing last month, Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) questioned whether he should call Omarova "professor" or "comrade."
  • In that hearing, moderate Democrats called out her opposition to a law that eased some regional bank regulations —and her comments earlier this year that small oil-and-gas companies should go bankrupt to help “tackle climate change.”

The bottom line: The OCC has been without a permanent head for 18 months.

  • Biden said he will "continue to work to find a nominee for this position, and plan to make an announcement at a future date."
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