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Empty Fed Chairs

A Commentary By Robert Novak

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has appealed to Senate Democratic leaders to confirm President Bush's long-pending nominations to fill two empty chairs as Fed governors, enabling a fully staffed central bank to handle the current financial crisis. He did not receive a favorable response from Sen. Christopher Dodd, Senate Banking Committee chairman.

Dodd omitted Fed nominees from President Bush's appointments that his committee considered this week. Sen. Richard Shelby, Banking's ranking Republican, who usually works well with Dodd, has been ignored in requesting Fed confirmations. "I'm not going to sit back and allow for 14-year appointments of people who don't seem to understand how important it is the Fed do its job," Dodd said on CNBC June 5.

Actually, banker Elizabeth Duke would serve four years and banker Larry Klane two years. A third nominee, Randall Kroszner, continues on the board while awaiting confirmation to a full 14-year term. Bush has not yet named anyone for a new vacancy, so three of seven seats on the Fed's Board of Governors are empty, with an imbalance of economists over bankers.


Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell cancelled Wednesday's long-delayed consideration by the Senate Republican Conference of earmark reforms after several senators asserted they were "uncomfortable" voting on them.

Those initiatives by the Republican Fiscal Reform Working Group are called "milquetoast" by Republican reformers who would like to outlaw earmarks. The group was dominated by Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi, who tops the Senate in earmarks. Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, a leading anti-earmark reformer, is also a member of the working group but was outvoted.

McConnell said the proposals will be considered by the conference after the Fourth of July recess.


West Texas Republican leaders were upset when Sen. John McCain at the last minute canceled a June 16 fundraiser in Midland, Texas, (that had collected $1.5 million) because it was being held in the home of oilman Clayton Williams.

McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said McCain was "unaware" of "incredibly offensive remarks" made by Williams in his unsuccessful 1990 race for governor of Texas. Sue Brannon, Midland County Republican chairman, said the event was scrubbed because of a "personal conflict" by McCain.

Brannon said the fundraiser would be rescheduled at the Hilton Midland Plaza, but Texas Republican sources called it a cancellation by party activists who are lukewarm about McCain. They have been unhappy about McCain's opposition to oil drilling in ANWR (Arctic Natural Wildlife Refuge).


House Democrats got a mixed message from their top two leaders June 20 on the anti-terrorist communications surveillance bill. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer asked them to vote for this bill, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not, while voting "aye" herself.

"I'm not asking anybody to vote for this bill," Pelosi told the House. "I just wanted you to know why I was." She told reporters Wednesday she was not aware that Hoyer took a different position. In fact, Hoyer concluded his speech by saying, "I urge passage of this legislation."

Democrats opposed the bill, 128 to 105. But with Republicans in support 188 to 1, the surveillance bill carried, 293 to 129.


Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay has resurfaced with an appeal for contributions to the Coalition for a Conservative Majority, which lists him as chairman and founder.

DeLay suggested that this be enclosed with any contribution: "I am thrilled to learn that you have gotten back in the fight against the Left by forming (the new organization)."

DeLay, who has endorsed John McCain after expressing misgivings, in his fundraising appeal takes positions to the right of the Republican presidential candidate. DeLay asks: "Are you concerned by the growing evidence that there are powerful forces inside our government and out who are quietly moving to have America absorbed into a globalist style 'North American Union' (NAU) with Canada and Mexico?"


See Other Political Commentaries

See Other Commentaries by Robert D. Novak

Views expressed in this column are those of the author, not those of Rasmussen Reports.

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