Key Democrats signal opposition to Lawrence Summers as Fed chief

Key senators signal opposition to appointment of Obama's choice as Federal Reserve chief

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 September, 2013, 4:47am


Lawrence Summers' prospects of becoming chairman of the Federal Reserve have become murkier since three key Democratic senators signalled that they would oppose his nomination.

Senator Jon Tester, of Montana, a member of the Banking Committee, said on Friday that he would vote against sending Summers' nomination to the full Senate for a confirmation vote.

Two of Tester's fellow Democrats on the committee, senators Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Sherrod Brown of Ohio, have also signalled through their aides that they would vote "no".

Such resistance complicates matters for Summers because without the votes of those three Democrats, he would need Republican support on the Banking Committee, where Democrats have a three-vote majority. The panel holds the first vote on any nominee to lead the Fed.

It is not clear how the rest of the committee might vote. Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, is believed to be reluctant to support Summers but has not commented publicly.

President Barack Obama is believed to prefer Summers, Treasury secretary in the Clinton administration and an Obama economic adviser, to succeed the current Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke, who is expected to step down at the end of January.

It is unusual for senators to voice opposition to a nomination before the White House has even submitted it to the Senate.

As scepticism grows among members of the president's own party, the White House has made it clear to Democrats on Capitol Hill that Summers is Obama's choice.

Republicans, too, are wary of Summers. Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the No2 Senate Republican, and Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas have both said that they would not vote for Summers.

In August, Roberts said: "I wouldn't want Larry Summers to mow my yard."

Summers, who was also the president of Harvard, has attracted resistance for a variety of reasons, among them his comments about the aptitude of women in maths and science.