President Joe Biden today announced Michael Barr as his new pick to serve as the Federal Reserve’s top banking regulator after Democrats failed to muster the needed votes for the climate change expert last nominated for the job.
Barr, a veteran of the Treasury Department during the Obama and Clinton administrations, was among the architects of the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which cracked down on risky practices at financial institutions. He’s currently the dean of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan.
“Barr has spent his career protecting consumers, and during his time at Treasury, played a critical role in creating both the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the position for which I am nominating him,” Biden said in a statement today. “He was instrumental in the passage of Dodd-Frank, to ensure a future financial crisis would not create devastating economic hardship for working families.”
Biden’s announcement comes after Sarah Bloom Raskin last month withdrew her nomination to be the Fed’s vice chair for supervision. Senate Republicans were united against her confirmation, and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said he wouldn’t support Raskin due to her views on climate change (E&E News PM, March 15).
Raskin, a favorite of environmental groups, was a strong public advocate for tighter financial regulations on climate risk.
Early reactions suggested that Barr is also likely to face GOP opposition; it’s unclear whether he’ll be able to muster the support of every Senate Democrat.
“Michael Barr has defended Dodd Frank’s big-bank bailout mechanism, which enshrined into law taxpayer bailouts of banks. He was also the primary author of the unconstitutional and unaccountable CFPB,” Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, the top Republican on the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, wrote on Twitter, referring to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Toomey said he has “concerns” about the nomination, but looks forward to discussing them with Barr.
The Banking Committee’s chair, Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, said he would support Barr’s nomination and urged his GOP colleagues “to abandon their old playbook of personal attacks and demagoguery and put Americans and their pocketbooks first.”
Manchin, another key vote, “hasn’t weighed in here yet,” his spokesperson, Sam Runyon, said today when asked about the new nominee.
Barr faced pushback from progressive groups last year when his name was floated as a nominee for comptroller of the currency, The New York Times reported. One of their criticisms was that Barr worked to weaken the Volcker Rule, which bars banks from proprietary trading.
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who co-authored the Volcker Rule, said today in a statement, “I’m not going to make up my mind about this nomination until I have a chance to sit down with Mr. Barr.”