OCC Nominee Omarova Testifies at Confirmation Hearing

Nov 19, 2021Federal Regulation, News

Yesterday, President Biden’s nominee for the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), Professor Saule Omarova, testified before the Senate Banking Committee at her confirmation hearing. While her nomination was already facing headwinds with Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and others expressing concerns about some of her past positions, the sharp questioning she took from Senators on the committee left further doubts about her chances of getting confirmed. Given widespread Republican opposition to her nomination and a 50-50 party split in the chamber, Omarova will likely need the vote of every Democratic Senator in order to move forward.

In her opening statement, Omarova said that if confirmed, her “top priority will be to guarantee a fair and competitive market where small and mid-size banks that invest in their neighbors’ homes and small businesses can thrive, and where every community—regardless of wealth, geography, or history—has access to safe and affordable financial services.”

According to American Banker, many Republicans expressed concerns about Omarova’s background and education in Moscow, claiming that she believes the Soviet economic system was superior to that of the U.S. Omarova strongly disputed these characterizations, responding to one line of questioning from Senator John Kennedy (R-La.) by saying, “I am not a communist, I do not subscribe to that ideology, I could not choose where I was born.”

Another concern several Senators raised was about Omarova’s academic writings suggesting that she would drastically change the U.S. banking system. This includes her ideas to increase the power of the Federal Reserve and to franchise community banks.

“The community banks that perform the crucial function of extending credit to local small businesses and hardworking families are disappearing, leaving many urban and rural communities without meaningful access to financial services,” Omarova said. “Community banks are also forced to compete with Big Tech companies, like Facebook, that do not play by the same rules.”

At the hearing, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, supported her nomination. In his opening statement, he said that she is “one of the most qualified nominees ever for this job.”

“She embodies everything we ought to celebrate—the fighting spirit that makes this nation great. The tenacity to strive for a better life. And the openness and opportunity of America that attracts the best minds⎯from all over the world, from all backgrounds,” he continued.

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