Tester Expresses Concerns about OCC Nominee, Potentially Endangering Confirmation

Oct 27, 2021Federal Regulation, News

Last week, U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who serves on the Senate Banking Committee, voiced concerns about Saule Omarova, President Biden’s nominee to lead the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). His opinion will likely pose an obstacle in Omarova’s confirmation as she is expected to need party-line support in an evenly-split Senate with Republicans in the chamber largely opposed to her nomination.

As a moderate who typically supports and fights for community banks, Tester has importantly not directly opposed Omarova’s confirmation, all but sinking it.

“I want to give her a fair shake, but I do have concerns. I will hold off until after I meet her,” he told POLITICO.

Omarova has received pushback from Republicans for her desire to let the Federal Reserve provide bank accounts to Americans instead of private institutions, which she said would “end banking as we know it.” Her view that the government should play a bigger role in the financial system has brought opposition from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which normally stays out of confirmation battles.

Omarova would “relegate community banks to ‘pass through’ entities that hold their deposits on behalf of the Federal Reserve, effectively eliminating the community banking model that not only provides the U.S. the most diverse and competitive banking system in the world, but also meets the unique and evolving needs of small businesses and consumers in communities across the country,” said Rob Nichols, American Bankers Association President.

Though she could not legally implement customer bank accounts at the Federal Reserve, Omarova’s confirmation would bring skepticism about the role of megabanks in the financial market. She has also suggested that technological advances like fintechs and cryptocurrencies overstate their benefits to consumers.

Alternatively, she has garnered strong support from Senate Banking Chair Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) as well as support from Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).

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