Embattled Federal Reserve Board pick Stephen Moore has no plans to withdraw from consideration, but knows he needs to sit down with Republican senators who are raising concerns about his nomination.
“I have all these attacks against me and I’m not surprised these Republicans are (questioning my nomination) – because that’s what they hear,” Moore said in a brief phone interview late Tuesday, shortly after CNN’s KFile reported on decades’ worth of controversial comments Moore has made about women.
Earlier in the day, multiple Republican senators openly expressed doubts about President Donald Trump’s choice of his former campaign adviser for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors.
“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, an economic commentator. “When they hear that I think they’ll – hopefully they’ll be supportive.”
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 Stephen Moore’s past positions that “it’s hard to look past some of those.”
Moore, a former adviser to Trump’s 2016 campaign, has drawn widespread criticism for his comments and writing on women’s equality, first reported last week by CNN’s KFile.
He has also drawn scrutiny over his personal finances and his political closeness to the President, who on Tuesday resumed his ongoing public criticism of the Fed, traditionally treated as an apolitical body.
The narrow partisan split in the Senate means Trump can only afford to lose four Republicans without closing off any viable path to confirmation if Moore were to be formally nominated.
Even Trump’s closest allies began expressing reservations Tuesday.
When asked if he would support a Moore nomination, South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham – who golfed with Trump this past weekend – said he is “still looking at it but it would be very problematic.”
Moore said in a CNBC interview earlier in the day that he believes the biggest problem in the US economy is the decline in “male earnings.”
“The biggest problem I see in the economy over the last 25 years is what has happened to male earnings – for black males and white males as well. They’ve been declining and that is, I think, a big problem,” Moore said during an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”
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.”
That interview echoed comments Moore made years ago writing for the conservative National Review, where he criticized female athletes who advocated for pay equality, complaining that they wanted “equal pay for inferior work.” He also argued that women should be banned from refereeing, announcing or beer vending at men’s college basketball games.
In an email to CNN’s KFile last week, Moore said, “This was a spoof. I have a sense of humor.”
During a radio interview last Tuesday, Moore compared himself to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, whose confirmation last year was marked by allegations he had committed sexual assault as a teenager. In one interview he said that reporters covering him at various news outlets – including CNN – are “pulling a Kavanaugh against me.”
Top White House adviser Larry Kudlow said Monday that Moore still had the President’s backing, though press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters that his comments on women and other issues were being reviewed by White House staff.
But the shift in opinion in the Senate does not bode well for Moore, who has said he would withdraw from consideration if he becomes a political liability to the President. Trump’s other Fed pick, former 2012 Republican candidate Herman Cain, bowed out last week citing the pay cut he would have to take in the job.
That decision came after four Republican senators said they would not support him, closing his path to confirmation.
Republicans had previously been publicly neutral on Moore, a longtime fixture in conservative Washington circles who was a longtime Wall Street Journal editorial board member. He was a CNN contributor until earlier this year.
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine was more circumspect in comments Tuesday, saying “obviously I would have concerns about some of his writings on women, some of his economic policies and whether or not he believes in the independence of the Federal Reserve, but I think this debate is premature til we see the President is going to go through with the nomination.”
That position was echoed by Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee.
“I think that what I will do is sit down with him and talk with him because comments like that sure don’t make me happy, I’m sure they don’t make you happy either,” Blackburn told CNN in her first extensive comments about Moore.
And North Dakota Sen. Kevin Cramer – the fourth Republican to oppose Cain – said he still supports Moore, but said he was concerned about Moore’s path forward.
“There are lots of good people out there, and Stephen is certainly one of them, but there might be people who are easier to pull across the finish line,” he told reporters. “At this point I wouldn’t disqualify him from getting my vote, but again, all of these things take capital. And capital’s pretty precious in a divided government.”
Others were blunter in their assessments.
Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the second-ranking GOP leader, told reporters Tuesday that Moore “is going to have to answer those questions” about his past controversial comments about women and added that “it would be helpful” for the White House to vet nominees more fully before announcing them publicly.
“I think these stories that have come out recently will be a good test of what the support level is up here,” Thune said in the Capitol. “If Joni and other members in our conference are as, I guess, effected by some of these stories as she was, we’ll get a sense of that pretty quickly.”
Thune said he expects the concerns about Moore will have an impact “not just on some of our women members but everybody generally.”
He said concerns about Moore are being shared by GOP senators directly with the White House, as had happened with Cain.
“I think those are being shared but you know they haven’t officially nominated him and apparently they are doing their own vet, which is probably good because then they will have to make some decisions based on what they come up with there,” Thune said, suggesting the White House may never formally nominate Moore.
Thune added that there is a lesson in this for the White House about how to handle future nominations.
“You have to know you’re going to have this that of analysis and scrutiny and I think it would be helpful when they nominate people they have some of those conversations ahead of time,” he said.
CNN’s Phil Mattingly, Devan Cole and Noah Gray contributed to this report.