Controversial Fed nominee Shelton stalls in Senate test vote

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FILE - In this Feb. 13, 2020 file photo, President Donald Trump's nominee to the Federal Reserve, Judy Shelton, appears before the Senate Banking Committee for a confirmation hearing, on Capitol Hill in Washington. President Donald Trump's controversial nominee to the Federal Reserve is facing a razor-close vote in Congress. The Senate is voting Tuesday on the nomination of Judy Shelton to join the Federal Reserve's powerful board of governors. Shelton is an unusually caustic critic of the Fed and is opposed by three Republican senators. Expected absences from two other Republicans could block her from advancing in Tuesdays vote. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

WASHINGTON – The nomination of Judy Shelton, President Donald Trump's controversial pick for the Federal Reserve, is stalled in the Senate after Vice President-elect Kamala Harris returned to the chamber to cast a key vote in a tally Tuesday.

Two key Republicans were absent because of COVID-related concerns. The 47-50 vote came as the Republican-controlled Senate continues to focus its energies in the post-election lame-duck session on confirming Trump's appointees.

Shelton is an unusually caustic critic of the Fed and was opposed by two GOP senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah, in Tuesday's vote. Harris has been focused on the transition to the Biden administration but returned to the chamber for her first vote since winning the vice presidency.

Senator-elect Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., is likely to join the Senate when the chamber returns from its Thanksgiving break. That could leave Shelton short of support for confirmation even if Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., seeks a revote next month.

Another Republican opponent, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, missed Tuesday's vote, and his return could cement Shelton's fate, even after Rick Scott, R-Fla., and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, return to the chamber after quarantining because of exposure to the coronavirus.

McConnell initially voted “aye" but changed his vote to reserve the option to call a second tally if he can line up the votes. All in all, accounting for absences and the arrival of Kelly, who defeated Martha McSally, R-Ariz., Shelton would appear to be one vote short, assuming there won't be a revote this week. The Senate is slated to be recessed next week for Thanksgiving.

Trump spokesman Judd Deere tweeted Tuesday that the White House remains “confident that Judy Shelton will be confirmed upon reconsideration.”

Shelton's nomination has been sharply partisan for a nominee to the Federal Reserve's Board of Governors. The Fed seeks to maintain a degree of political independence, though it is often criticized by members of Congress and in recent years by Trump. The vice chair of the Fed's board, Richard Clarida, was approved by a vote of 69-26 in August 2018.