Two of the Federal Reserve board’s seven governors abstained from supporting the selection of former Obama aide Austan Goolsbee to become president of the Chicago Fed, according to a record of the vote.
Governors Michelle Bowman and Christopher Waller, who were both appointed to the board by former President Donald Trump, withheld their support for Goolsbee, who took up his post last month. The records were obtained by Bloomberg News Friday through a Freedom of Information Act request.
The abstentions are unusual, particularly because Waller heads the reserve bank oversight subcommittee at the board, which means he would have been in communication with the Chicago Fed’s directors before they made their final pick.
Unlike selections to the Fed board in Washington, which are presidential nominations subject to Senate confirmation, the heads of the 12 regional Fed banks are picked by their local directors though the board does also have a vote.
The abstentions suggest some wariness on the selection by both governors. A spokesperson for the Fed board didn’t have an immediate comment.
Goolsbee was an economic adviser to former President Barack Obama, as well as to Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg during his 2020 presidential run.
Goolsbee has a long record of criticizing Republican policies, and partisan commentary.
Chair Jerome Powell was appointed to the chairmanship by Trump and was nominated for a second term at the Fed’s helm by President Joe Biden. Powell supported the Goolsbee pick, the record shows, as did all other governors, who were nominated by Biden or Obama.
The Chicago Fed announced their pick of Goolsbee Dec. 1. He started the job in January and cast his first vote on monetary policy earlier this month.
The Wall Street Journal reported the White House is considering Goolsbee as a candidate to replace Vice Chair Lael Brainard, who is departing the board next week to become Biden’s top economic adviser.