Controversial Trump Fed nominee may be confirmed after all

By Burgess Everett

Judy Shelton’s nomination to the Federal Reserve isn’t dead yet. In fact, it’s showing new signs of life.

After absorbing a number of body blows at her confirmation hearing over her support for the gold standard and past writings, Shelton picked up the vote of Sen. Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.) this week and is on the verge of winning the support of Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), another potential skeptic.

Shelby said his starting point is that he would “like to help the administration.”

“If the committee wants the majority of the committee to support her, I would do it too. She wouldn’t be my No. 1 choice,” Shelby said on Thursday afternoon.

Asked if that meant he would vote for her, he responded cryptically.

“I could. But I haven’t said it yet,” Shelby said. “I never said I’d vote against her. I raised concerns about her and I think those were legitimate concerns, the question of whether she’s a mainstream economist or was she an outlier?”

Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) is also undecided and Republicans have only a one-seat advantage on the committee. But with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a member of the committee running for president and generally on the road, Shelton could in theory pass through committee with even a Republican “no” vote and still maintain a favorable recommendation.

“I’m not going to give any predictions, but we’re making good progress,” said Senate Banking Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho). “There have been some concerns raised and we’re working to address those concerns. And my expectation is that we will.”

That would put her on track for a floor vote after President Donald Trump’s disastrous attempts to nominate Herman Cain and Stephen Moore to the central bank. The White House denied reports that Shelton would be withdrawn several weeks ago. A second Fed nominee, Christopher Waller, is expected to be confirmed much more easily.

A committee vote could come in the next month, according to a Republican aide, although no final decision has been made. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) could also be on the campaign trail during the vote, giving the 53-seat GOP majority even more of a cushion.

That could offer a window of opportunity for Senate Republicans to confirm Shelton, who seems unlikely to get any Democratic votes. Nominees need only a simple majority to be confirmed on the Senate floor, meaning Republicans could lose a couple of their members and still be able to confirm Shelton.

It’s a stark contrast from the scene two weeks ago, when Shelton’s nomination appeared in danger of failing after a rocky hearing in front of the Senate Banking Committee.

“I was not real optimistic early on, but she seems to be picking up some speed,” said Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.), who helps run the Senate floor with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “If she comes out of committee and she gets reported out, we’ll have to try and figure out how to process it on the floor.”