Will Biden Govern? The Omarova Edition

While political reporters love the drama due to Co-President Manchin’s and Manic Pixie Dream Senator Sinema’s antics, there are several other poorly behaving Democrats who are attempting to block the appointment of an aggressive bank regulator, Saule Omarova, to head the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) (boldface mine):

Three of the Democrats—Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ)—voted for a 2018 bank deregulation bill that Omarova criticized at the time. By opposing Biden’s pick to regulate major banks, they are joining hands with the bank lobby, which has led an unusually intense opposition campaign against the Cornell law professor. Sens. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and John Hickenlooper (D-CO) have also indicated they would vote against Omarova.

Is this that populism pollster David Shor keeps talking about? Anyway, there is a possible workaround:

Following the news, which was reported the day before Thanksgiving by Axios, several progressives proposed a solution: The White House could name Omarova first deputy comptroller, a position that does not require confirmation.

Omarova could replace Acting Comptroller Michael Hsu, effectively putting her in charge of the agency, since Biden would not need to nominate a Senate-confirmed comptroller to the top job, said Yevgeny Shrago, a policy analyst with the advocacy group Public Citizen.

The move has recent precedent. Two comptrollers under President Trump’s, Keith Noreika and Brian Brooks, were never confirmed, but led the agency as acting comptrollers. Hsu has served as Acting Comptroller for more than six months.

Biden should do the same with Omarova, Shrago said. She could be selected as deputy comptroller, making her acting director with all the powers of a full chair.

Noreika and Brooks were very active, despite their nominal status as temps…

Omarova could run the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) indefinitely as acting comptroller, according to Jeff Hauser of The Center for Economic and Policy Research. While the Vacancies Reform Act of 1998 limits how long some acting officials can remain in a position, it does not apply here, Hauser said. Instead, the National Bank Act gives the Treasury Secretary full authority to designate a first deputy without a fixed limit.

And if you’re wondering if this would be the first time a Democratic president defied Democratic senators, well…

Other examples abound. In 2015, after Elizabeth Warren successfully resisted the nomination of investment banker Antonio Weiss for a top job at the Treasury, Barack Obama gave Weiss a non-confirmable position as a senior counselor at Treasury, from which he was given wide latitude to design Puerto Rico’s punitive debt restructuring.

If it’s good enough for Obama… although he was helping the banks, not hurting. But if Biden were serious about governing, then he should do this. Let’s see Democratic senators publicly defend lax bank regulation. Good luck with that if they want to be re-elected.

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