White House

White House gives Herman Cain an out on Fed amid GOP opposition

Kudlow: ‘It would probably be up to Herman Cain if he wants to stay in’

Presidential candidate Herman Cain speaks at the Family Research Council's Values Voter Summit in Washington on Oct. 7, 2011. The White House is giving him an out on a Federal Reserve seat amid mounting GOP concerns. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The White House appears to be giving Herman Cain, who was forced from the 2012 presidential race amid sexual misconduct allegations, an out in his candidacy for a seat on the Federal Reserve board of governors amid Republican senators’ mounting opposition.

President Donald Trump said earlier this month he is considering Cain for the central bank’s leadership. The president has voiced his anger with the Fed’s decisions on key interest rates, claiming it has slowed economic growth that will be key to his 2020 reelection fight. Cain is a former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, but exited the race amid a slew of sexual harassment charges.

But when GOP Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota on April 11 joined fellow Republican Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah, Cory Gardner of Colorado, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska in publicly opposing the Cain pick, it put his chances at confirmation in jeopardy. The White House, so far, is sticking by Cain — sort of.

[Herman Cain picks up more GOP opposition to his being on the Fed]

“Herman’s going through the vetting process for now; that’s where we are on that,” White House chief economic adviser Lawrence Kudlow told reporters Tuesday,” adding Trump still has confidence in Cain. But then came a curious twist.

“I think at the end of the day it would probably be up to Herman Cain if he wants to stay in that process or not,” Kudlow said, also saying White House officials have spoken to other potential candidates.

Minutes later, however, he would not say it is up to another potential nominee the president has floated, Stephen Moore, whether to continue being vetted. The remark is a shift for Kudlow, who told CBS nine days ago that Cain “is qualified” because “he was the chairman of the Kansas City Fed,” adding: “He knows a lot about the subject.”

Some Republican senators, however, have their doubts.

[Trump refers to Fox News as ‘we,’ after years of echoing the network]

“If I had to vote right now, there’s no way I could vote for him,” Cramer told CQ Roll Call. “I know more things about him that’d keep him out than would qualify him.”

If Democratic senators voted no, as well, Cain’s nomination would fall short of the simple majority needed to confirm him, based on the GOP senators who have expressed concerns.

Trump has recently slammed the Fed, even as Kudlow and others have said the White House is not trying to influence its decisions.

Critics of both Cain and Moore worry Trump is trying to install an ally rather than a serious economist on the central bank, hoping it will keep rates low as he mounts a bid for a second term. Neither Cain nor Moore are economists. 

Another Republican senator, Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby - a longtime Alabama lawmaker who meets somewhat frequently with the president — also has voiced concerns about the former Pizza executive being nominated.

“That’s an important appointment, that’s a serious appointment to the Federal Board of Governors. Stephen Moore, let’s talk about him first. He is involved in the economics. And I know him,” Shelby said last week. “I don’t know Mr. Cain. … It will be interesting to see what happens. I don’t know what will happen. ... We have to vet it and we have to evaluate it.”

Jim Saksa and Paul Krawzak contributed to this report.

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