By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: November 16, 2021 ~
President Joe Biden is finding out the hard way that nominees for high office actually need to be vetted by multiple competent people. That clearly did not happen with Biden’s nominee, Saule Omarova, to head the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), a federal agency that supervises national banks – those operating across state lines.
Omarova’s radical statements and position papers will likely come into sharp focus at her confirmation hearing at 9:30 a.m. this Thursday before the Senate Banking Committee.
Omarova’s unhinged views have Biden supporters scratching their heads as to how she ever survived the vetting process at the White House. (See Biden’s Nominee Omarova Has a Published Plan to Move All Bank Deposits to the Fed and Let the New York Fed Short Stocks.)
Omarova, a Cornell University law professor, essentially has no filter for what rolls off her tongue. Thus, this Thursday’s confirmation hearing is certain to provide more fodder for Biden’s political enemies. Omarova appeared in a 2019 Canadian feature documentary and called the financial services industry in the United States the “quintessential a**hole industry.” The mega banks on Wall Street, such as JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup’s Citibank, are among the national banks that Omarova would oversee as head of the OCC.
Over the past week, the right-wing Murdoch news outlets like Fox News and the New York Post have had a field day over comments Omarova made this past February in a video talk for the Jain Family Institute’s “Social Wealth Seminar.” Omarova said that troubled industries such as coal, oil and gas are going to see “a lot of the smaller players go bankrupt,” adding that “at least we want them to go bankrupt if we want to tackle climate change.” A video clip of those comments, posted by the right-wing American Accountability Foundation on Twitter, had received 1.6 million views as of this morning.
Those comments are not going to play well with Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a state heavily dependent on coal for jobs. Senator Jon Tester, a Democrat from another coal state, Montana, has already questioned the suitability of Omarova for the OCC post. If Democrats lose even one vote on Omarova, her confirmation could be derailed as Republicans have already painted her as a Marxist and signaled that they will not vote for her.
Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board wrote about Omarova’s statement that she wanted to see fossil fuel companies go bankrupt, adding this: “Saule Omarova continues to make the case against her nomination to be Comptroller of the Currency, as critics need only to quote her own words.”
As of this morning, there were over 300 comments under the editorial, with numerous commenters rightfully questioning how Omarova had survived the vetting process at the White House. One commenter, a person identifying himself as Glen Blackmon, wrote: “She’s scary, but what’s more scary, is that she got vetted by the WH in the first place.” It’s tough to take issue with that assessment.
One of the big puzzles in this mess is why progressive groups continue to push a nominee who is doing so much political damage to the chance for Democrats to hold onto the Senate and House in the midterm elections next year. On November 2, more than 60 progressive groups and watchdog organizations sent a letter to Senator Sherrod Brown, Chair of the Senate Banking Committee that will hold Omarova’s confirmation hearing this Thursday. They avowed their strong backing of her nomination to head the OCC. Her position on climate change appeared to be a crucial element of their support. They wrote in the letter:
“Professor Omarova’s track record is also a positive sign for the kind of forward thinking needed to support the Biden-Harris administration’s whole-of-government approach to climate risk. The risks from the climate crisis are broader and deeper than those that triggered the 2008 financial crisis. The OCC, with Professor Omarova as its head, can now play a role in the President’s ambitious plan to fight the climate crisis while ensuring banks invest in the needs of the frontline communities most threatened by the climate crisis.”