Sarabeth Maney/The New York Times

Prof. Saule Omarova testifies during her a nomination hearing before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee on Nov. 18, 2021.

November 29, 2021

Cornell Law Prof Tapped by Biden Administration For Top Treasury Department Position

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Prof. Saule Omarova, law, was nominated on Nov. 2 by the Biden Administration to head the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. However, several lawmakers remain opposed to her nomination. 

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is an independent bureau of the U.S. Department of the Treasury and regulates assets held by large national banks. The Biden administration announced their intent to nominate Omarova in September which was quickly met by opposition from Republican lawmakers who attacked both Omarova’s background and academic work. 

Omarova has been openly critical of Wall Street, arguing that the current financial system allows big banks to engage in unnecessary risk, citing speculation that occurred during the 2008 financial crisis. Omarova has expressed her goal to make banking “more inclusive” for everyday Americans and has also advocated for guaranteeing a fair and competitive market where small and midsize banks can thrive.

Axios reported on Nov. 25 that five Democratic senators have told the White House they won’t support the nomination. Those senators include Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who expressed their opposition in a phone call to Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio.), along with Senators John Hickenlooper (D-Co.) and Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.).

In particular, Republicans have taken issue with Omarova’s upbringing in the former USSR and a proposal she wrote for the Federal Reserve to start providing loans to consumers, which would take business away from private banks. Tester and Warner also both raised concerns about Omorova’s opposition to the 2018 Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, which she opposed due to the fact that it eased financial sector regulations that were put in place by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act after the financial crisis. 

Speaking on the Senate Floor on Oct. 6, after Biden expressed his intent to nominate Omarova, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) accused Omarova of opposing free-market capitalism, and said “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more radical choice for any regulatory spot in our federal government”. 

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Omarova refuted this claim, saying that she supports free-market capitalism but also wants to prevent big banks from reaping all of  the rewards from government bailouts. 

“I want to protect the American taxpayer, basically, from holding the bag” Omarova told the Wall Street Journal. 

Senator Brown also stood by the nomination and reportedly described Republican attacks against Omarova as “McCarthyism.” 

Despite the opposition, the Biden administration has stood by their choice of Omarova. A White House official reportedly told Axios that “The White House continues to strongly support her historic nomination.”