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Rep. Jamaal Bowman. Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

President Biden is under pressure to use a key appointment to push for policies to narrow the racial wealth gap, as Congressional Black Caucus members weigh in on the appointment of a powerful bank regulator.

Driving the news: Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) and 33 other members of the caucus penned a letter to Biden Thursday urging him to pick Mehrsa Baradaran, an expert on the wealth gap, to lead the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

Why it matters: The OCC is the primary regulator of all national banks. Members of the CBC see the person leading the agency as someone who could level the playing field for those who have faced discrimination from banking institutions.

  • Progressives helped sink the prospects of Michael Barr to run the agency, citing his ties to the financial technology industry and a lack of a track record of fighting against predatory lending and other issues that have harmed communities of color.
  • The Congressional Hispanic Caucus has backed their own candidate for the position: Manuel Alvarez, the commissioner of the California Department of Business Oversight.
  • But the CBC letter suggests the caucus has similar objections to Alvarez.

What they're saying: "We are in a moment of national crisis during which existing economic and racial injustices have been exacerbated by the pandemic, and we need an OCC leader whose values are fully aligned with the needs of working people," the letter states.

  • "Other proposed candidates for the OCC do not have the same track record as Mehrsa on these issues, and in fact, they have ties to internet-savvy lenders which have exploited vulnerable consumers."
  • Baradaran, a banking law professor at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, has written extensively about the racial wealth gap and discriminatory banking policies.
  • She is also a high-profile advocate of postal banking — allowing the post office to provide banking services.

Between the lines: While the letter does not explicitly mention Alvarez, Democratic aides say part of the resistance toward him stems from his ties with the fintech industry.

  • He also served as a deputy attorney general under then-California Attorney General Kamala Harris.

Go deeper: 10 myths about the racial wealth gap

Go deeper

1 hour ago - Health

Vermont becomes first state to reach 80% vaccine threshold

A COVID-19 vaccination record card and an "I got my COVID-19 vaccine!" sticker. (Photo by: Don and Melinda Crawford/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) announced Monday that 80% of its eligible population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Why it matters: Vermont is the first state in the country to reach that threshold. As a result, Scott said he is removing all COVID-19 restrictions.

Garland says DOJ will strengthen rules on obtaining lawmakers' records

Photo: Tom Brenner-Pool/Getty Images

Attorney General Merrick Garland said Monday he has directed Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco to "evaluate and strengthen the department’s existing policies and procedures for obtaining records" from members of Congress.

Why it matters: At Garland's direction, the Justice Department's inspector general has opened an investigation into the Trump-era DOJ's use of secret subpoenas to obtain data belonging to House Democrats.

Dangerous heat wave set to shatter records across Southwest

High temperatures for Friday, June 18, 2021 shown, with record-breaking temperatures marked by a rectangle. Image: Weatherbell.

A punishing mid-June heat wave is set to scorch much of the Southwest and West this week, with Las Vegas potentially eclipsing its highest temperature on record, which stands at 117°F.

Why it matters: The heat will build in a region that is experiencing a record drought, leading to dangerous fire weather conditions, high power demands, and causing water supplies to dwindle further. The heat itself could prove deadly.

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