Trump crowdsources GOP senators on choice for Fed chair
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump asked for a show of hands from Republican senators as he nears a decision on naming a new head of the Federal Reserve, the most critical personnel choice affecting the economy that he’ll make in his presidency.
Trump made the request during a lunch with GOP senators at the Capitol on Tuesday, said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas.
Trump praised the candidates and then said, “Let me know what everybody thinks,” said Sen. John Kennedy, R-La.
The top candidates who are the subject of Trump’s crowdsourcing: current Fed Chair Janet Yellen; Fed board member Jerome Powell; and John Taylor, a Stanford University economist who advocates higher interest rates and is a favorite of some congressional Republicans.
The Fed chair, one of the most powerful U.S. officials after the president, steers interest-rate policy and plays an essential role in maintaining economic stability.
For Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, Trump’s polling “sounds like he was having some fun.”
“It is not a particularly good way to pick a Fed chairman,” said Zandi, who was an economic adviser to Republican Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. Zandi has been critical of some of Trump’s economic policies.
Trump is expected to decide before his trip to Asia on Nov. 3.
Some senators at the lunch said Trump offered a choice between Powell and Taylor; others said the president mentioned his top three candidates.
Trump also is considering Gary Cohn, his top economic adviser; and Kevin Warsh, a former Fed member who was an economic official in President George W. Bush’s administration.
Trump signaled Friday that he may appoint Powell as chairman and Taylor as vice chairman, another open position, in an interview with Fox Business. He also expressed admiration for Yellen and said he was considering “a couple of others.”
Powell has been on the Fed board for five years and voted to support Yellen’s low interest-rate policies — criticized by Trump during his presidential campaign as being overly political, kept low to favor Democrats. Since taking office, Trump has dropped his criticism of Yellen, the first woman to lead the nation’s central bank, saying she’s done a good job and favors low rates as he does.
Taylor, by contrast, has long advocated a higher-rate policy to guard against inflation and asset bubbles.
At the White House, spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked why Trump would ask senators for a show of hands. Does that mean Powell and Taylor are his favorites at this point?
“Those are certainly individuals that he’s looking at,” she said. “The president is taking that decision extremely seriously and he’s being very thorough in the process, and we’ll have an announcement on it soon.”
Sanders said Trump is “talking to a lot of relevant stakeholders and individuals about this, and knows it has a great deal of impact, this decision. So again, he’ll take his time and make sure he makes the right one and not just a fast one.”
Associated Press writer Darlene Superville and AP Economics Writer Martin Crutsinger contributed to this report.