Two leading Senate Democrats on Thursday were sharply critical of Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s record as a bank regulator, saying he had been too soft on the nation’s biggest banks.

“Chair Powell, during your tenure, the Fed has rolled back important safeguards, making it easier for the biggest banks to pump up the price of their stock and boost their already enormous power in our economy,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Ohio, and chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, at the start of a two-and-a-half hour hearing.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, echoed Brown’s concern.

“Over the past four years, I see one move after another to weaken regulation over Wall Street banks,” Warren told Powell.

Ordinarily, top Democrats criticizing the Fed chairman over regulation wouldn’t raise eyebrows, but these are not ordinary times.

That’s because Powell’s first term as chairman ends in February and President Joe Biden must decide whether he wants to reappoint Powell to another four-year term or to appoint a new chairman.

Fed watchers think the decision will come by the fall in order to give the Senate time to confirm Biden’s pick.

On Wednesday, Robert Kuttner, a co-editor of The American Prospect, a liberal magazine, wrote that Biden is likely to name a new Fed chair.

Kuttner was one of the first writers to report that Biden was considering former Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen to be his Treasury Secretary.

President Donald Trump nominated Powell in November 2017 to serve as Fed chairman, replacing Yellen, who had served one term. Powell took office in early February 2018. Trump had a stormy relationship with his Fed pick. He attacked Powell relentlessly on Twitter in 2018 and 2019 for keeping interest rates too high but then softened as the Fed did ease policy.

On Wednesday, Rep. Patrick McHenry, Republican of North Carolina, and the top Republican on the House Financial Services panel, called on Biden to give Powell a second term.

“You have proven to be a steady hand throughout the pandemic and ongoing recovery, and you’ve defended the independence of the Fed,” McHenry said.

In response to Warren’s criticism of bank regulation, Powell said that the Fed had raised capital standards on the largest banks under the stress capital buffer.

“More broadly, I would completely agree that our job is to maintain the strength of these large financial institutions so that we never have to worry about bailing them out again,” Powell said.

Many bankers, and Fed officials, have argued that banks remained strong during the pandemic.

However, Warren cited an analysis by the Minneapolis Fed that found federal fiscal stimulus during the crisis helped banks avoid as much as $300 billion in loan losses.

“In other words, the current Fed rules were not strong enough for the banks to withstand the pandemic, without, once again, calling on American taxpayers to back them up,” she said.

Powell said banks “by and large” performed the roles they were supposed to perform during the crisis, “admittedly with a lot of fiscal and monetary support.”

“We can always do better,” he said.

Warren has already played a pivotal role in the selection of one Fed chairman. In 2013, she was one of four Senate Democrats who said they would not support former U.S. Treasury Secretary, Larry Summers, who was President Barack Obama’s first choice to lead the central bank. Summers eventually withdrew his name from the race and Yellen was nominated instead.

Powell has worked hard to rebuild the Fed’s ties on Capitol Hill, something that his predecessors Ben Bernanke and Yellen did not enjoy. At the hearing, many senators made comments supportive of Powell’s efforts during the pandemic, but stopped short of discussing his future.

Stephen Myrow, managing partner of Beacon Policy Advisors, said in an interview he didn’t think Biden has made up his mind on his pick for Fed chairman.

Myrow said Biden was of two minds — whether to stick with the “known quantity” of Powell and emphasize the independence of the Fed versus being able to make history by selecting the first Black Fed chairman.

“Biden is waiting until he has to. It’s hard to grade Powell because the exam is not over yet. We’ll know a lot more about the economy by the fall,” Myrow said.

Biden may be able to select four Fed board seats by next year, a majority on the seven-member board, noted Ed Mills, a Washington policy analyst for Raymond James.

There is one vacancy on the Fed board. In addition, Fed Vice Chairman Richard Clarida’s term expires in January and Fed Vice Chairman for Supervision Randal Quarles is expected to leave after his leadership role expires in October. Fed Gov. Lael Brainard is the only official not nominated by Trump.

The opportunity to nominate “a slate” for the Fed will be pleasing for Biden because he can send a signal and satisfy all factions of his party, Myrow said.

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