Four Republican senators say they’ll oppose Herman Cain’s Federal Reserve board candidacy, essentially sinking the former Republican presidential candidate’s chances before he’s even been formally nominated.
The GOP’s slim majority of 53 votes means Cain’s nomination is now dead on arrival, with no Democrats expected to back President Donald Trump’s unconventional choice.
“If I had to vote today, I’d vote not to confirm,” North Dakota Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer, a member of the Senate Banking Committee, told CNN on Thursday.
Earlier in the week, Cramer told reporters he was uncertain about Cain, pointing to the sexual harassment allegations that essentially ended the former business executive’s 2012 presidential campaign.
“It’s all just sort of a vague memory right now, but it’s hard not to hear ‘Herman Cain’ in the context of something like this and not immediately recall some of those challenges,” the North Dakota Republican said on Tuesday.
Cain, who was previously CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, has denied the allegations and this past weekend posted a video to Facebook again vowing to fight them.
Cramer is joined in opposition by Sens. Cory Gardner, Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney.
Romney, who faced Cain in the 2012 race, has been skeptical of his chances since Trump announced his plans to nominate him.
“I don’t think Herman Cain will be on the board of the Federal Reserve,” he told reporters Tuesday. “It’s important that the board be comprised of people who are academics, economists, and not people who are highly partisan.”
And Gardner first said he would vote against Cain on Tuesday in a hallway interview with CNN. “It’s not about his past. It’s about who I think should be on the board,” the senator explained. “So that’s that.”
A spokesperson for Murkowski confirmed Thursday she is opposed to the potential nominee.
Republican senators were upset with Trump’s choice to fill one of the two open slots on the board of the world’s most powerful central bank, not only because of the sexual harassment allegations, but also due to concerns that Cain, who founded a fervently pro-Trump political action group, was too political for the job.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told members during a private lunch on Tuesday to share their concerns with the White House sooner rather than later, before Trump officially nominates Cain.
Supporters argued Cain had experience because he previously served on and later chaired the Kansas City Fed.
“Herman is, you know, he’s already sat on one of the Fed Boards,” Trump said Tuesday. “And he’s just somebody I like a lot, as to how he’s doing in the process, that I don’t know. You go through the process, but Herman’s a great guy and I hope he does well.”
Cain is currently undergoing a background check, as is Trump’s other controversial Fed pick, conservative economic commentator Stephen Moore.
Moore, a former Wall Street Journal editorial board member and CNN contributor, helped start the conservative Club for Growth and is a visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation. He has recently been a vocal critic of the Fed leadership, siding with Trump on keeping interest rates low.
Moore also faces a tax lien of more than $75,000.
But he has already garnered support among a number of leading GOP senators, including those who are no on Cain.
“The distinction’s pretty clear. I know him. I know his philosophy, I know his economic positions, I know his credentials, I know his heart, and I think he’d be a good addition to the Fed. The issues that have been raised about Stephen, none of them disqualify him,” Cramer said of Moore. “Those are sort of issues of life. Sexual harassment is quite different.”
Of Cain, he added: “My concerns stem, as we talked about earlier, from the initial sexual harassment allegations, which are hard to explain. And I haven’t heard an explanation. In my mind, that makes his confirmation very difficult and certainly causes me to have reservations. All of that said, again, I’d prefer to not have to vote on him. I’d prefer that his name not be sent up.”
This story has been updated with additional developments Thursday.