Senate Republicans rapidly closing the door on Moore Fed nomination

Senators voicing their objections to White House

By Ted Barrett, Haley Byrd and Phil Mattingly, CNN
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

(CNN) - The door to Stephen Moore's potential nomination to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors appears to be closing rapidly as Republican senators continue to make their concerns known to the White House, with several predicting it will be dead by week's end.

Moore's nomination has been hanging by a thread for days, as Republican senators have questioned his viability because of his past writings and comments, including views on women's advancement first reported by CNN's KFile, that would create an exceedingly heavy lift for Trump's former campaign adviser.

One GOP senator said that White House officials are keenly aware of the dire straits Moore is in and expected a decision to move on would come shortly, offering an estimate: "Twenty-four hours. Forty-eight tops."

That said, the senator added, "Ultimately it's up to the President. We advise and consent. We don't nominate."

Moore's status was the subject of repeated discussions on the Hill on Wednesday.

It came up during a closed door lunch of Senate Republicans on Wednesday, where his personal issues related to taxes and a divorce were also raised, according to a senator who attended. While there was no consensus about next steps, it was made clear that while the nomination could move forward, "it would be a very heavy lift," the senator said.

Even those who are close to Moore expressed doubts about his future. That included Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, who told his colleagues during the GOP lunch Wednesday that he expected the Moore nomination to be dropped, according to one GOP Senate aide.

"Senate GOP caucus meetings are private, and we don't discuss the details of conversations that take place in those meetings," Toomey's press secretary Bill Jaffee responded in an emailed statement.

Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, who is a current member and a former chair of the crucial Senate Banking Committee, also told CNN on Wednesday night that he thought the nomination was "in trouble."

"I haven't said I'd vote for him or against him, but he hasn't been nominated yet. I've been on the Banking committee a long time, chaired it three times, and I raised that in the caucus. It would be a volatile hearing," Shelby said.

"Being a member of the board of governors of the Federal Reserve is an important job, and you should not have controversy following you in or out of the job," Shelby added.

Sen. John Thune, a South Dakota Republican said Wednesday afternoon that there are "ongoing discussions and conversations" with the White House about Moore. "We'll know more about that before long," Thune, the second-ranked Republican and chief vote counter, told reporters on Capitol Hill.

Moore, who has long ties to the Republican Party and to some individual senators, still has allies on Capitol Hill, and for weeks there has been a sense that while the nomination would be contentious, there was a pathway to confirmation, particularly in the wake of the flameout of Trump's other proposed nominee for the powerful central bank board, former business executive and presidential candidate Herman Cain.

But statements of support have been few and far between in recent days.

The hardest sell appears to be with Republican women. Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst said Tuesday that she would be unlikely to support Moore if he is formally nominated.

"Very unlikely that I would support that person," she told reporters on her way to the Senate floor, adding that she's spoken to the White House about it. She previously told CNN that she wasn't enthused by the pick.

Asked if she thought he'd be confirmed if he came up for a vote today, Ernst replied: "I don't think so."

That includes key figures Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who acknowledged "reservations" about Moore, and West Virginia Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, who said of Moore's past positions that "it's hard to look past some of those."

As a writer for the conservative National Review, Moore asserted that women should be banned from refereeing, announcing or beer vending at men's college basketball games. He also criticized female athletes who advocated for pay equality, complaining that they wanted "equal pay for inferior work."

In an email to CNN's KFILE last week, Moore said, "This was a spoof. I have a sense of humor."

But on Tuesday, Moore said on CNBC's "Squawk Box" that he believes the "biggest problem" facing the US economy is the decline in "male earnings."

He continued: "Look I want everybody's wages to rise, of course, but you know, people are talking about women's earnings -- they've risen. The problem, actually, has been the steady decline in male earnings, and I think we should pay attention to that because I think that has very negative consequences for the economy and for society."

Later Tuesday, Moore was asked in an interview with PBS about a comment he made in 2016 about Trump kicking former President Barack Obama's family out of "public housing."

"There's that great cartoon going along, that The New York Times headline: 'First thing Donald Trump does as President is kick a black family out of public housing,'" Moore said at a 2016 event shortly after Trump's election. "And it has Obama leaving the White House. I mean, I just love that one."

"I shouldn't have said it," Moore said on "Firing Line with Margaret Hoover."

He appeared to acknowledge in that interview that his comments may end his chances for confirmation.

"Again, you go back 30 years, you're going to be able to find clips over and over and over again about me. I have a long paper trail," he said. "I mean, there's no question about it, and I say things that are kind of jokes, that if people want to pick them apart, then I probably won't, you know, get on the Federal Reserve Board."

Moore who was formerly a Wall Street Journal editorial board member and CNN contributor, has not yet been formally nominated. He told CNN on Tuesday that he had no plans to withdraw and expects his vetting to be complete as soon as this week.

"I do need to sit down with every one of them and tell them here's the truth: I'm not anti-woman," said Moore. "When they hear that I think they'll -- hopefully they'll be supportive."

Cain, Trump's other controversial Fed pick, abruptly withdrew from contention in April after the revival of longstanding sexual harassment claims that helped end the restaurant executive's 2012 Republican presidential bid. Cain, who has denied the allegations, said he was dropping out because he didn't want to take a pay cut.

CNN's Eli Watkins, Jeremy Diamond, Haley Byrd and Sunlen Serfaty contributed to this report.

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