WASHINGTON — The Senate Banking Committee approved the nomination of Jelena McWilliams, by a vote of 24 to 1, to a six-year term as Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. chair on Thursday.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., was the only panel member to vote against the Trump administration's choice to lead the FDIC, while the rest of the committee voted in favor by voice vote.
The panel also approved Marvin Goodfriend, an economist at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, to a Federal Reserve Board seat, but his nomination moved along party lines with not a single Democratic vote. Thomas Workman, a former president of the Life Insurance Council of New York, was approved for the Financial Stability Oversight Council seat reserved for someone with insurance expertise.
The panel's top Democrat, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, supported McWilliams, the chief legal officer at Fifth Third Bancorp, but said, “I caution the next [FDIC] chair not to deviate from a path that has served our economy well.”
“Ms. McWilliams has a deep background in banking. I hope she’ll follow the example of her predecessors,” said Brown.
McWilliams was previously a Senate Banking Committee aide to Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and before that an attorney at the Federal Reserve Board. If confirmed, she would succeed current FDIC Chair Martin Gruenberg.
But Brown said he "cannot support Dr. Goodfriend’s nomination today," pointing to a nomination hearing last month where Goodfriend appeared to try to moderate previously stated views about the Fed.
The Senate is able to approve nominees with a simple majority, but Goodfriend’s confirmation is somewhat on shaky ground. Republicans currently hold just a one-vote majority in the Senate, and several news outlets reported Thursday that Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., planned to oppose the Fed nominee. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., meanwhile, has been away from the Senate for health reasons.
“I can’t brush aside comments and concerns about Dr. Goodfriend's long-held and often repeated views,” said Brown. “While at the hearing he paid lip service to Fed independence and its mandate to fight unemployment, it ultimately rang hollow given his years advocating the opposite, especially in regards to the dual mandate. ... We can’t take a chance on someone with a decade long record prioritizing hypothetical inflation over real people losing real jobs.”
Goodfriend would fill one of four open Fed board seats, with President Trump able to appoint three more nominees, including a vice chair. If confirmed, Goodfriend, who was director of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond before joining Carnegie Mellon, would serve a term that expires in 2030.
Rachel Witkowski contributed reporting to this article.