Republican Sen. Thom Tillis is calling for the Senate Banking Committee to probe the Federal Reserve’s independence after a former agency official suggested the upcoming presidential election “falls within the Fed’s purview” as it considers whether to cut interest rates.
Tillis, who is up for reelection next fall in swing state North Carolina, is siding with President Donald Trump in his ongoing feud with Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell. Bill Dudley, a former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, wrote in a Bloomberg op-ed that the Fed should consider refusing to offer new economic stimuli because doing so could encourage Trump to plunge further into a trade war with China and would “reassert the Fed’s independence by distancing it from the administration’s policies.”
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Tillis said he plans to ask the Banking Committee’s chairman, Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), about convening a hearing “regarding Fed independence and the danger of this institution taking unprecedented and inappropriate steps to meddle in the presidential election.”
“I am very disappointed that former Fed monetary Vice Chairman Bill Dudley is lobbying the Fed to use its authority as a political weapon against President Trump,” Tillis said in a statement. “The President is standing up for America against China after 30 years of our country and our workers being ripped off and there is now an effort to get the Fed to try to sabotage the President’s efforts.”
Senate Republicans generally stay out of Federal Reserve politics, but Tillis is aligning himself closely with Trump as he faces a primary challenge and a potentially difficult general election. The first-term senator previously supported a bill protecting special counsels, including Robert Mueller, and initially opposed Trump’s declaration of a national emergency on the southern border. He later supported it and has generally not deviated from Trump since.
The president has berated Powell, whom he appointed, for declining to further slash interest rates.
“The only problem we have is Jay Powell and the Fed,” Trump tweeted last week. “He’s like a golfer who can’t putt, has no touch. Big U.S. growth if he does the right thing, BIG CUT — but don’t count on him! So far he has called it wrong, and only let us down.”
The repeated attacks motivated Dudley to wade into the dispute and implore Powell to consider standing firm. He argued that the Federal Reserve’s desire to stay out of politics was admirable “but Trump’s ongoing attacks on Powell and on the institution have made that untenable.”
“Central bank officials face a choice: enable the Trump administration to continue down a disastrous path of trade war escalation, or send a clear signal that if the administration does so, the president, not the Fed, will bear the risks — including the risk of losing the next election,” Dudley wrote. “Trump’s reelection arguably presents a threat to the U.S. and global economy, to the Fed’s independence and its ability to achieve its employment and inflation objectives.”