WASHINGTON Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, fresh off his primary victory in Alabama, signaled on Wednesday that he may soon end his moratorium on some of the 16 Obama administration financial nominees awaiting panel confirmation.
The stalled nominees include those for two Federal Reserve Board governors, two Securities and Exchange commissioners, a U.S. Export-Import Bank board member needed to approve large financing deals and the U.S. Treasury’s top anti-terrorist finance official.
Banking Committee Democrats and some policy analysts had speculated that Shelby, 81, might be more willing to break the logjam once he defeated a 33-year-old Tea Party-backed primary challenger who had tried to make an issue of his age and long tenure in Washington.
Shelby returned to Washington for a Senate vote on Wednesday afternoon, but Reuters could not reach him in the Capitol.
His spokeswoman, Torrie Matous, said that the five-term senator now “intends to address a number of issues throughout the year including some nominations.”
She added that he would likely begin announcing some hearing plans next week.
In Alabama on Tuesday, Shelby easily defeated four challengers to take 65 percent of the vote, enough to avoid a runoff election in April.
In a campaign atmosphere dominated by Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump’s anti-establishment message, Shelby did the opposite, running on his experience and emphasizing his “power base in Washington, D.C.”
Earlier this week, Democrats on the Banking Committee urged Shelby to “stop obstructing” the nominations.
One of the most acute problems is for the Export-Import Bank, which cannot approve loans or guarantees above $10 million without Senate confirmation of a third board member –effectively locking it out of deals for Boeing commercial aircraft or major power equipment made by General Electric
Conservatives, including Shelby, had waged a major campaign to close the trade bank last year, idling it for more than five months before Congress voted to renew its charter.
The Fed nominees, former community banker Allan Landon and University of Michigan economist Kathryn Dominguez, would restore the central bank’s board to its full capacity of seven members.
Many had written off their chances of being confirmed, in part because of the testy relationship between Congress and the Fed, which has opposed Republican bills it says would curb its independence.
Shelby had previously said that he would not move the 16 nominees until the Obama administration named a Fed vice chair for supervision, a position created by the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.
(Additional reporting by Jonathan Spicer in New York and Tim Hepher in Paris; Editing by Dan Grebler)