Two of President Biden’s nominees to sit on the Federal Reserve and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are in limbo for the time being because of a spate of Democratic absences in the Senate due to new COVID-19 infections.
Vice President Harris, who casts tiebreaking votes in the 50-50 Senate, and Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) announced Tuesday they tested positive for COVID-19, which means they will miss Senate votes this week.
As a result, Biden’s controversial nominations of Lisa Cook to sit on the Federal Reserve’s board of governors and Alvaro Bedoya, a privacy expert, to join the Federal Trade Commission will be put on hold.
Republicans are objecting to postponing a vote on Cook, which means her nomination will come to the floor and is expected to fail, according to a senior Senate Democratic aide.
Sen. Pat Toomey (Pa.), the senior Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, has argued that Cook would further politicize the Fed and is not committed to fighting inflation.
Democrats will try to delay a vote on Bedoya until their caucus is back at full strength, according to the aide.
If Republicans object to a delay, however, Bedoya’s nomination could also fail on the floor, as Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has already filed a cloture motion on the nominee.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce last week urged senators to delay Bedoya, which means that FTC Chair Lina Khan will have to wait to move her agenda as the agency will remain tied 2-2.
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) has voiced his concern about “the frequency” he says Bedoya “has publicly expressed divisive views on policy matters.”
The Senate schedule was thrown into disarray Tuesday after Harris, Murphy and Wyden announced they had become infected.
Kirsten Allen, a spokeswoman for Harris, said the vice president will isolate and continue to work from her official residence and will return to the White House only after testing negative.
Murphy announced around lunchtime that he had felt “mild symptoms overnight” and tested positive for the virus Tuesday morning.
“We’ve done the contact tracing and let people know. It’s a bummer, but I’m sure if I wasn’t fully vaccinated I would be feeling a lot worse. So remember to get your booster!” he tweeted.
Wyden’s office issued a statement reporting that the senator had tested positive Tuesday “as part of routine testing” and plans to stay away from the Senate for the rest of the week.
“He is in Washington, D.C., and working from his residence while following CDC guidance to quarantine,” Wyden’s office said.
The Senate will go ahead with a confirmation vote on Lael Brainard to serve as vice chair of the Fed’s board of governors scheduled for 2:15 p.m. Tuesday, and she is expected to be confirmed.
Fifty-four senators voted Monday afternoon to advance Brainard, including eight Republicans.
Sarah Bloom Raskin, Biden’s first choice to serve as the Federal Reserve’s vice chair of supervision, a key regulatory post, withdrew her nomination last month after encountering strong Republican opposition.
Her nomination was doomed when centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said he wouldn’t support her.