A future for former presidential hopeful Herman Cain on the Federal Reserve Board appears uncertain, with some Republicans — including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — distancing themselves from the president’s announced pick for the board. Mr. Trump himself has backed off on pushing Cain forward, praising Cain but saying it’s up to Cain what happens, even though Mr. Trump has yet to formally nominate him.
On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declined to say whether he thinks his chamber would confirm Cain to join the Federal Reserve board, casting doubt on Cain’s prospects. Asked if a Cain nomination would face problems , McConnell, of Kentucky, noted that successful nominees must pass background checks and have a likelihood of confirmation.
“And, as you know, some of my members have expressed concern about that nomination,” McConnell told reporters. “But as far as I know, it hasn’t been made yet.”
Multiple Republicans have expressed strong reservations about Cain or said they won’t vote for him. Three GOP senators — Utah’s Mitt Romney, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and North Dakota’s Kevin Cramer — told The Associated Press they’d likely vote against Cain. With Republicans controlling the Senate 53-47, it would take opposition from just four GOP senators to sink the nomination, assuming all Democrats are also “no” votes.
When a reporter asked Mr. Trump earlier this week if Cain’s nomination is safe, the president responded by saying, “Well, I like Herman Cain. And Herman will make that determination. Herman is a wonderful man. He’s been a supporter of mine for a long time. He actually ran a very good campaign. And that’s up to Herman.”
Kevin Hassett, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, told reporters Thursday outside the White House that Cain is in an in-between-point in the nomination process.
“Herman is in the period between intend to nominate, which is not even exactly true, because an intent to nominate is something you send to the Senate when they’re out of session and then you nominate,” Hassett said. “But in between the period where the president says we intend to nominate someone and they’re official nominated, there’s kind of a lot of stuff, a lot of paperwork that has to happen. And it’s normal White House procedure, certainly something that the CEA chair would adhere to, to not comment on a nomination that hasn’t occurred yet.”
Mr. Trump’s interest in potentially nominating Cain along with another political ally, conservative commentator Stephen Moore, has also sparked questions among lawmakers from both parties in Congress about the president’s influence on the central bank.
Fed Chairman Jerome Powell reiterated the importance of the Fed’s independence during a talk Thursday evening with House Democrats meeting in Virginia for their annual issues retreat, according to a source in the room unauthorized to discuss the private session.
Powell told lawmakers that he saw his role as totally apolitical. He also said the Fed does not consider political pressure in its decision making, the source said. Another source in the room confirmed the remarks.
The chairman fielded questions from lawmakers during a question-and-answer session, but declined to comment on the president’s potential picks.
Powell was Mr. Trump’s choice to lead the Fed, but the president has been critical of him for raising interest rates.
Earlier Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said elevating Cain and Moore to the Fed would risk politicizing the nation’s central bank and endangering the economy.
“These two appointments to the Fed are the worst, ill-suited appointment that the president could come up with,” she told reporters.
Cain has run into concerns by lawmakers from both parties that, as a Trump loyalist and deeply conservative political figure, he would threaten the Fed’s traditional political independence. Trump himself has taken a nontraditional approach to the Fed, repeatedly accusing it of mismanaging the economy by not pushing hard enough for low interest rates.
Cain, former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, ran for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. He dropped out of the race after allegations of sexual harassment and infidelity, which he denied. Last year, in September, he helped found a pro-Trump super political action committee, America Fighting Back PAC, whose website says, “We must protect Donald Trump and his agenda from impeachment.”
Cain formerly served on the board of the Fed’s Kansas City regional bank. He has also called for a return to the gold standard to control inflation, which most economists consider unworkable.
— CBS News’ Kathryn Watson contributed to this report.