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The Senate yesterday put the kibosh on Donald Trump's nomination of rightwing economist Judy Shelton to a position on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, voting to keep her and her fringe views far away from any influence on US fiscal policy. Shelton is an oddball who has in the past advocated returning to the gold standard and wearing onions on our belts, and is one of two nominees Donald Trump made last year to fill vacancies on the Fed. That's after his earlier Fed picks, economic brain-trusters Herman Cain and Stephen Moore, withdrew their nominations.

As David Frum points out at the Atlantic, it's pretty telling that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell decided to try to push through Shelton, who's "widely regarded as a hyper-partisan extremist," and not Trump's more conventional nominee, Christopher Waller, research director at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, after both were advanced by the Senate Banking Committee. Just a bit of lame-duck fuckery that might create trouble for Joe Biden. There's your Coming Distractions preview for the next four years.

As it turned out, Senate Republicans weren't able to push Shelton through. Three GOP senators, Mitt Romney (Utah), Susan Collins (Maine), and Lamar Alexander (Tennessee) opposed her nomination, but Alexander wasn't in the chamber yesterday due to illness in his family. McConnell had been hoping to at least get a tie vote that could be broken by Mike Pence, but then Senators Rick Scott (Florida) and Chuck Grassley (Iowa) announced that they were quarantining due to exposure to the coronavirus. (Grassley said on Twitter last night that he is infected, and we wish him a spdy rcvry.)

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris flew in to Washington yesterday to vote against Shelton, and that was that. In one of those weird bits of Senate procedure that we still refuse to believe is real, McConnell then changed his vote from "yes" to "no," which allows him to bring the nomination up again at a later date. Yes really, that is your US Senate procedure. We think he should also have to turn around three times, clap his hands and shout "Huzzay!" while wearing spats, as is only fit and proper for a gentleman.

The consensus appears to be that we dodged a crazy bullet here. In addition to her fondness for the archaic gold standard, which the US abandoned during the Great Depression, Shelton also seemed happy to abandon her tight-money "principles" depending on who was president. When Barack Obama was in office, Shelton decried the Fed's low interest rates, which helped get the economy going again following the Great Recession. But in 2019, when the economy was rolling along just fine but beginning to slow, Shelton discarded her fiscal restraint act and enthusiastically supported Trump's call for the Fed to slash interest rates so he could be reelected. There's also the not-insignificant detail that Shelton actively campaigned for the Fed job in TV interviews conspicuously arranged at Trump's Washington trash palace.

Mind you, if she had been confirmed to the Fed, she almost certainly would have found her austerity principles real damn quick the moment Joe Biden took the oath of office. No, we can't afford any more coronavirus stimulus, sorry, gotta prevent inflation, and all the things the Fed did last summer to help the economy keep moving during the first part of the pandemic will suddenly be too risky.

As we noted, it's possible that McConnell may try again to jam Shelton onto the Fed board, if he can scare up enough GOP senators who haven't been to superspreader events. But he would have to hurry, because Senator-elect Mark Kelly of Arizona, who won the election to fill the remainder of John McCain's term, will be seated in the Senate as soon as his election is certified, likely the first week of December. That would effectively mean Shelton can't get enough votes. Again, the Senate is fucking weird.

As of right now, it looks like neither of Trump's two choices for the Fed will win confirmation; McConnell hasn't made any sign of scheduling a vote on Waller, who's a conservative but perfectly mainstream pick. The question, Frum points out, is whether Republicans keep control of the Senate, and if they do, whether McConnell decides to simply embargo any Biden nominees to the Fed, with the aim of "paralyzing monetary policy in order to hurt Democratic chances in the elections of 2022 and 2024."

No such thing has ever happened before, but since McConnell gained the leadership of the Senate majority in 2014, it's been one instance of no-such-thing-has-ever-happened-before after another. For all their many points of friction, McConnell and Trump have had one point of unity: a deep conviction of the non-legitimacy of government by the other party.

We don't want to put too much pressure on the voters of Georgia, but holy shit we need the January 5 Senate runoff elections to create a 50-50 tie in the Senate. It might be nice for Joe Biden to actually be able to govern.

[NBC News / Vox / Atlantic]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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