Stephen Moore is facing growing opposition to securing a nomination to the Federal Reserve as a number of Republican senators raise questions about his candidacy.
A former economic adviser to Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, Mr Moore is confronting a backlash because of past writings dismissing female athletes’ bid for pay equality with men, and comments describing parts of the US midwest as “armpits of America”.
Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator from South Carolina, told reporters on Tuesday it would be a “very problematic nomination” if Mr Moore’s name is put forward, although he signalled he had not made up his mind.
Joni Ernst, a Republican senator from Iowa, told reporters it was “unlikely” she would support him, adding to previous comments in which she said she was “not enthused” about his candidacy because of his writings.
John Thune of South Dakota, the Republican Senate majority whip, told reporters the concerns about Mr Moore would have an impact not just on women in the Senate but on members generally, adding that they were being shared by lawmakers directly with the White House.
Donald Trump has not yet nominated Mr Moore, but if he ditches plans to name him to the Fed it would mark a second setback to the White House’s designs for the central bank. Earlier this month, Herman Cain, a former contender for the Republican presidential nomination and vocal supporter of Mr Trump, withdrew his name from consideration after he encountered opposition from Republican senators.
Earlier, Mr Moore insisted on CNBC that he still thought he would gain a seat on the board of governors, adding: “The president and the White House’s economics team’s totally behind me on this.”
But signs of scepticism are growing within the GOP as the accumulating number of controversial statements and writings create obstacles to his nomination. In a National Review column published in 2000, Mr Moore, who was at the time the head of the conservative Club for Growth, criticised women tennis professionals for wanting equal pay for equal work, saying “they want equal pay for inferior work”.
There was a practical reason why Pete Sampras made a lot more money than Martina Hingis did, Mr Moore argued. “He’s much, much better than she is. The day that Martina can return Pete’s serve is the day she should get paid what he does.”
Comments have also surfaced in which Mr Moore called the Ohio cities of Cleveland and Cincinnati “armpits of America”. Those comments have provoked attacks from Sherrod Brown, a Democratic senator from Ohio, who on Tuesday said Mr Moore had shown “breathtaking contempt for millions of Americans”.
Mr Moore backed away from the latter comments on Sunday in an ABC interview, saying: “I do not believe Ohio is the armpit any more. I think it’s one of our most — it’s becoming one of our most prosperous states and I think Trump’s going to win that state by the way by a big margin in 2020.”
Mr Moore’s close political alignment with Mr Trump has raised worries about the Fed’s independence — as did Mr Cain’s. The central bank is already under sustained attack from Mr Trump, who has lambasted the policies of Jay Powell, the Fed chairman, and urged him to cut rates. Janet Yellen, Mr Powell’s predecessor, has warned the assault could begin to undermine the Fed’s institutional legitimacy in the public eye.
On Tuesday, Mr Trump called on the Fed to ease rates, potentially by a point, and restart quantitative easing, saying “we have the potential to go up like a rocket” if the central bank were to follow his advice. Mr Powell is due to hold a press conference on Wednesday after the central bank’s latest policy meeting.