Doomed Raskin Nomination Illustrates Perils of a 50-50 Senate

Doomed Raskin Nomination Illustrates Perils of a 50-50 Senate

When President Biden’s nominee Sarah Bloom Raskin withdrew her candidacy to serve as vice chairman for supervision of the Federal Reserve Board last week, it underscored the perils of governing in a 50-50 Senate, often dependent on the vote of conservative coal-state Democrat, Joe Manchin (D-WV). While Sen. Manchin has voted with the Biden Administration more than 90% of the time, he effectively doomed Raskin’s nomination when he announced his opposition, arguing she "failed to satisfactorily address…concerns about the critical importance of financing an all-of-the-above energy policy.”

Manchin is about as reliable a Democrat as West Virginia will ever elect. A little over a week ago, his state’s popular Governor (who switched parties to become a Republican) said, "God will give us time for the smart people of the world to solve the riddle… If there is truly climate change going on, He will give us time.” In West Virginia, a fossil fuel-heavy state from coal to gas, elected leaders see an opportunity for increased production after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Gov. Jim Justice: Gov. Justice delivers address on America's energy crisis, March 11, 2022.

Why This Matters

The SEC is moving towards mandating greater climate risk disclosures from publicly traded companies, and the private sector is facing mounting pressure on climate change from shareholders and Boards. The top banking regulator at the Fed should be someone who prioritizes the continuing effects of climate change on the financial sector and the economy.

CNBC: The cost and consequences of climate disasters, October 12, 2021.

Senate Politics

It’s easy to blame Manchin for the demise of the nomination, strongly supported by the environmental community. But it is worth noting that Manchin’s vote against Raskin only mattered because every single Republican -- including supposed moderates like Sen. Collins (R-ME) and blue-state Republicans like Sen. Toomey (R-PA) -- opposed her. GOP members of the Banking Committee were so set against her, they boycotted meetings to prevent a quorum and a vote.

It shouldn’t be this hard to confirm officials who care about climate change and consider it a factor in their decision-making. But ultimately, the status quo will not prevail. The president will nominate and the Senate will likely confirm someone like Raskin, with similar views but less of a paper trail. The White House has succeeded in confirming progressive nominees before and expects to do so here. Most importantly, big changes are coming. Today, the SEC proposed new rules for companies to update investors annually on how much pollution they’re responsible for and how it could affect earnings.