Lenin scholar Saule Omarova withdrew her name from consideration for the country’s top bank regulator on Tuesday after losing the support of moderate Senate Democrats.
Omarova told the White House it was “no longer tenable” to remain a nominee for comptroller of the currency, the New York Times reported. Omarova came under withering criticism from Senate Republicans over her calls to radically reform the banking system and create a New Deal-style federal agency to oversee infrastructure spending.
The withdrawal is a major setback for progressives, who touted Omarova’s criticism of big banks and the fossil fuel industry. President Joe Biden said in a statement accepting Omarova’s withdrawal that she would have been a “staunch defender” of consumers but that she “was subjected to inappropriate personal attacks that were far beyond the pale.”
Omarova’s defenders accused Republicans of waging a smear campaign against the Cornell professor by bringing up her academic history in the Soviet Union. Born in Soviet-controlled Kazakhstan, Omarova studied at Moscow State University, where she received a scholarship named after Vladimir Lenin and wrote a thesis on Karl Marx. Omarova dodged repeated requests from Senate Republicans to provide a copy of the thesis as part of the confirmation process. Omarova removed the thesis from her academic résumé in recent years.
Omarova was ultimately felled by four Democrats—Sens. Jon Tester (Mont.), Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), Mark Kelly (Ariz.), and Mark Warner (Va.)—who told the White House just before Thanksgiving they would not vote for confirmation. Tester and Warner, two members of the Senate Banking Committee, said at Omarova’s confirmation hearing they had deep concerns about her proposals to reform the banking system.
Tester took issue with Omarova’s statements that the fossil fuel industry would have to go “bankrupt” in order to fight climate change. Omarova also conceded during the hearing that she supports appointing federal officials to serve on the boards of big banks during financial crises.
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