The Senate on Tuesday agreed to consider the nomination of Lisa Cook for a position on the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors on a 50-49 party-line vote.
The result suggests that there is sufficient support in the evenly-divided Senate to approve Cook, who would be the first Black woman to serve on the Fed’s powerful board in its 108-year history. All 50 Senate Democrats voted in favor, while all Republicans, except for Sen. John Kennedy, from Louisiana, voted against her nomination. Kennedy did not vote.
Tuesday’s vote was necessary because the Senate Banking Committee deadlocked on her nomination, 12-12. The tie vote meant that the full Senate had to vote to discharge her nomination from the committee so that it could be considered by the Senate.
Republicans, led by Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, the top Republican on the Banking Committee, have argued that Cook is unqualified and is not sufficiently dedicated to fighting inflation, which has reached a four-decade high.
“Professor Cook has nearly zero experience in monetary policy,” Toomey said before the vote. “What’s even more troublesome is that, in addition to having no monetary policy experience, Professor Cook also appears to have no opinion at all on how the Fed should address inflation.”
Cook has a doctorate in economics from the University of California, Berkeley, and has been a professor of economics and international relations at Michigan State since 2005. She was also a staff economist on the White House Council of Economic Advisers from 2011 to 2012 and was an adviser to Biden’s transition team on the Fed and bank regulatory policy.
Her most well-known research has focused on the impact of lynchings and racial violence on African-American innovation, which some conservative economists have said isn’t relevant to the Fed’s mission.
Toomey also criticized her for having a “history of extreme left-wing political advocacy and hostility to opposing viewpoints,” including comments on Twitter in favor of reparations for African Americans.
Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, chairman of the Banking Committee, said Cook is “extremely qualified.”
“A small but loud minority have wrongly claimed that Lisa Cook doesn’t meet the standards for this position –- standards that only seem to apply for certain nominees,” he said. “Still, she has met and exceeded all of those high bars: she’s a PhD economist, she is a tenured professor, and she is sought by organizations around the world for her input and perspective from her.”
Cook’s nomination can now proceed to vote by the full Senate, along with three other people nominated for the Fed by President Joe Biden: Chair Jerome Powell, who has been serving in an acting capacity since February, for another four-year term; Fed Governor Lael Brainard, who Biden nominated to be the Fed’s vice chair; and economist Philip Jefferson, an economist and dean at Davidson College in North Carolina.
Biden’s nomination of Sarah Bloom Raskin, a Duke law professor, to serve as the Fed’s top banking regulator was blocked by Republican senators, who boycotted a vote on Raskin by the Banking Committee.