Washington — The Senate has confirmed President Donald Trump’s nomination of Randal Quarles to serve on the Federal Reserve, the first step in the Republican’s efforts to remake the nation’s powerful central bank.
Quarles, the head of a Salt Lake City-based investment firm, was approved on a 65-32 vote on Thursday. Senators, by a voice vote, then approved him to be vice chairman.
There are currently three vacancies on the Fed’s seven member-board. So far, Quarles is the only nomination that Trump has made to the central bank. As a candidate, Trump strongly criticized the Fed for following what he said were interest-rate policies that favored Democrats and for imposing burdensome rules on banks that he said had hurt the economic recovery.
Trump has given no indication of his final choices for the other Fed positions, but with all the vacancies, his nominees will have the power to remake Fed policy on interest rates and bank regulations. The Fed is the primary regulator for the largest U.S. banks.
The Fed board will have another vacancy next week when Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer steps down. In addition, Trump is deciding whether to nominate Fed Chair Janet Yellen for another four-term term or select someone else. Her current term expires Feb. 3. If she leaves the board, Trump will be able to fill five of the board’s seven seats.
The administration chose Quarles, who held top Treasury Department positions under two Republican presidents, as Fed vice chairman for supervision. That position will give him an important role in the administration’s efforts to loosen the banking regulations imposed by the Dodd-Frank law. Congress passed that law in 2010 in an effort to prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis, the worst meltdown of the financial system since the 1930s.
Quarles worked in the two Bush administrations. During his confirmation hearing for the Fed job, he endorsed proposals that would trim back the Dodd-Frank regulations.
When the White House announced the selection of Quarles in July, he was nominated for a vacant Fed board term that expires on Jan. 31 and for an additional 14-year term that would expire on Jan. 31, 2032, as well as the four-term term as the vice chairman for bank supervision.
The banking post was created by the Dodd-Frank law. It was never filled because Republicans blocked efforts by the Obama administration to formally nominate then-Fed board member Daniel Tarullo for the job. Instead, Tarullo served informally as the Fed’s top voice on bank regulation until he left the board earlier this year.
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