When she faces a room full of United States senators — some of whom have suggested she is a communist — Saule Omarova, President Biden’s pick to lead the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, will introduce herself by declaring that she loves two things: American capitalism and community banks.
Ms. Omarova, a Cornell Law School graduate, will set out Thursday to tackle the difficult task of being confirmed as head of the regulator that oversees national banks. Soon after her nomination, bank lobbyists began an unusually strident campaign against her, echoing critics who cited her birthplace — Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic — as a reason to question her loyalty to the United States.
Bankers claimed that Omarova’s academic writing demonstrated that she was well-equipped to replace the banking industry with a government-run alternative. Even members of the Senate Banking Committee, where Ms. Omarova is set to appear, joined in questioning her views: The committee’s highest-ranking Republican, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, repeatedly demanded to see Ms. Omarova’s master’s thesis to check it for Marxist ideas.
Ms. Omarova presented her background in an opposite light in a prepared opening speech posted on Wednesday by the Senate Banking Committee website. She claimed that she grew up with a grandmother who was left orphaned by Stalin when Stalin sent her family to Siberia because they refused to join the Communist Party.
She described the government during her childhood as an “oppressive state-run system, with no free enterprise and no economic opportunity for people like me.” Her ultimate dream, she said, became “coming to America — the land of opportunity and freedom.”
Ms. Omarova also vowed to “guarantee a fair and competitive market where small and midsize banks that invest in their neighbors’ homes and small businesses can thrive.” She added that her mission would include “preserving and fostering the relationship banking that drives economic growth and creates local jobs and prosperity.” Twice in the remarks, Ms. Omarova pointed out that she had worked for a Republican president, George W. Bush.
Ms. Omarova, if confirmed, would be the head of the regulator banks are looking for to provide clarity on how they can participate cryptocurrency markets and how they can better compete with nonbank financial tech companies, or fintechs. She would most likely have to draft new rules for the decades-old anti-redlining law, the Community Reinvestment Act, and would be expected to help carry out Mr. Biden’s stated mission to get the financial industry to help combat economic inequality and climate change.
Ms. Omarova must overcome many obstacles before she can attend Thursday’s hearing. The committee will vote on her nomination later. If it is approved there it would face a full Senate vote.
Source: NY Times