Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle grilled two Federal Reserve board of governors nominees Thursday, though most of the attention was toward one side of the witness dais.
The issue of Federal Reserve independence was central to a Senate Banking Committee hearing, as nominees Judy Shelton and Christopher J. Waller spoke about their experience and past positions.
Ms. Shelton was asked repeatedly about her past writings, among other things, advocating for a return to the gold standard and higher interest rates, positions she no longer holds.
In his opening statement, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, ranking member on the committee, said, "Ms. Shelton has too many alarming ideas and has flip-flopped on too many important issues to be confirmed for this job."
When it was his turn to ask questions Mr. Brown said Ms. Shelton has "a paper trail for 30 years. You seem to be the new Judy Shelton, not the old Judy Shelton. What are we to make of that?" Ms. Shelton said she has been "intellectually consistent" and doesn't "claim to be in the mainstream of economists."
Democrats on the committee wondered whether her views on cutting interest rates have changed because President Donald Trump, who officially nominated Ms. Shelton and Mr. Waller last month, has been vocal about his desire to see rates cut to zero.
Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, the committee chairman who supports both nominees, said Fed independence is vital to the nation's economic success, a sentiment to which both Mr. Waller and Ms. Shelton agreed. "I've lived and breathed central bank independence for 35 years," said Mr. Waller, executive vice president and director of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, a position he has held since 2009.
Ms. Shelton, the U.S. executive director of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development who previously served as an economic adviser to Mr. Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, also faced tough questions from Republicans, including John Kennedy of Louisiana, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, and Richard Shelby of Alabama, the last of whom said he was "troubled" by some of Ms. Shelton's past writings.
If confirmed, Ms. Shelton would serve the remainder of a 14-year term that expires Jan. 31, 2024, a seat previously held by former Chairwoman Janet L. Yellen. Mr. Waller, if confirmed, would serve the remainder of a 14-year term that was never filled and that expires Jan. 31, 2030.
There are currently two vacancies on the seven-member Fed board.
Republicans hold a 13-12 majority on the Senate Banking Committee. A committee vote on the nominations has yet to be scheduled.