Tuesday, August 21, 2012

About Those Fed Nominations

Kevin Drum says about the Fed Board:
Could better colleagues have won Senate confirmation? There's reason to doubt it.
I really disagree with this one.

Yes, Peter Diamond was successfully filibustered. But at least some of the reason for that one was revenge for a defeated Bush-era nomination; it's not clear that it was something about Diamond in particular, and certainly not clear that it was a policy veto by the GOP.

Meanwhile, the voting on Obama's actual Fed nominees suggests there was room for less popular choices. Ben Bernanke received 70 votes for confirmation -- and 77 votes for cloture. That sounds like there was room for someone else, especially since Bernanke lost some Democratic votes (even on cloture). Two other nominees were approved in September 2010 on voice votes. Both nominees approved in 2012 -- after the Democratic majority was slimmed down considerably -- still cleared 70 votes.

Nor is this an area where I think anyone has made an argument that Barack Obama employed a full-court press on the Senate. Yes, there was some lobbying on Bernanke, but overall it's clearly been a back-burner issue for Obama.

Look, I'm the first one to argue that those who believe Barack Obama could have forced a significantly larger stimulus or a more liberal health reform plan through Congress are overlooking the plain fact that he had no votes to spare. I'm open to arguments on this one, but I just don't see any evidence that Obama couldn't have had a significantly different Fed if he had wanted one.

4 comments:

  1. Ben Bernanke received 70 votes for confirmation -- and 77 votes for cloture....Two other nominees were approved in September 2010 on voice votes. Both nominees approved in 2012 -- after the Democratic majority was slimmed down considerably -- still cleared 70 votes.

    So your evidence that liberal Fed governors would have been confirmed is.... that the non-liberal governors were confirmed?

    I get that you are saying these nominees were confirmed by comfortable margins... but it seems that GOP senators be even more wary about voting for an Obama nominee if they knew the vote was close.

    That is to say: I don't find it plausible that Obama could have fine-tuned his nominations to such an extent that they would have obtained exactly the number of votes needed for confirmation, no more, no less.

    And I'm not one to overestimate the intelligence of GOP members of Congress, but I would think they would be extra hesitant about voting for someone who is likely to advocate printing more money, and thereby increasing inflation. Remember: "There is nothing more insidious that a government can do to its countrymen than to debase its currency."

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    1. Nor is this an area where I think anyone has made an argument that Barack Obama employed a full-court press on the Senate.

      Last time I checked, a "full-court press" by Obama on anything virtually assured a Republican filibuster.

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    2. But they already were filibustering -- but there certainly were 60 votes to beat that in the 111th, and probably in the 112th as well.

      No, I don't really know what would have got through the 112th Senate. But it sure seems to me that he could have had close to anyone he wanted in the 111th. Not to mention that he could have used recess appointments.

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  2. JB, did you comment on that sad Times story about Obama's pussyfooting on judicial appointments? That's something you've spanked him for so often ..I know you like that phrase 'energy in the executive,' and it seems that on many counts O has lacked it. I guess the question would be, compared to whom... - presidents have to pick their spots -- but on a lot of fronts he does seem, as Steve Jobs put it, to have a pile of reasons why something couldn't be done.

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