Just after bringing Mitch McConnell to tears and receiving bipartisan plaudits for his storied career, retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander received a pointed, if polite, missive from The Wall Street Journal.
“We’re sorry to say he has it backward,” the usually friendly conservative editorial board wrote on his opposition to one of President Donald Trump’s Federal Reserve nominees.
The Tennessee senator is now the biggest impediment to confirming Judy Shelton to the Fed, and Shelton’s supporters have relentlessly tried to sway him. But though Alexander is a longtime deal-maker, he’s quite firm when it comes to the controversial Fed pick.
“Ever since I’ve been here, I’ve been very strong in my belief that we need an independent central bank,” Alexander said in a 20-minute interview Thursday about Shelton, his own legacy and the state of the GOP. “And I’m not convinced that she believes in the independence of the [Fed] as strongly as I believe members of the Board of Governors should.”
When Alexander announced his opposition to Shelton in November, it appeared she would still be confirmed. But then Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) caught coronavirus, Shelton’s nomination failed on the floor and Mark Kelly was sworn in as a Democratic senator from Arizona. With just a 52-seat majority and two other Republicans opposed, Alexander’s “no” vote is now decisive.
“He just felt like it was a question of conviction and principle for him,” said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the Republican whip. “As recently as yesterday there were some folks that were talking to him. But he’s not moving. And I respect that.”