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Willow Omarova withdrew her appointment as head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), a little-known agency that plays a major role in overseeing the country’s banks.
Omarova, a Cornell University law professor, had faced strong opposition from Republicans in the Senate over her academic research, which had proposed major changes to the banking system.
Some of the attacks were unusually personal, including direct suggestions that the Kazakhstan-born candidate held “communist” views. Omarova, who is an American citizen, strongly denied this.
Yet some moderate Democrats had also expressed reservations about her previous positions, making her path to confirmation difficult in the much-divided Senate, even though she enjoyed strong support from progressives.
“I deeply appreciate President Biden’s confidence in my abilities and remain firmly committed to the administration’s vision of a prosperous, inclusive and just future for our country,” Omarova wrote in her letter asking the White House to withdraw his appointment as head of the OCC.
“At this point in the process, however, it is no longer tenable for me to continue as a presidential candidate,” she added.
The letter was released by the White House on Tuesday.
“Teacher or classmate? “: Omarova faces personal attacks
Omarova previously worked for Davis, Polk, & Wardwell, a white shoe law firm, and then for the US Treasury Department during the administration of George W. Bush.
But it was her research as an academic that met with strong opposition from Republicans and banking groups, who accused her of having “radical” views, as well as of eliciting reluctance on the part of Republicans. some Democrats such as Senator Jon Tester of Montana.
In a widely cited article, for example, she suggested that the Federal Reserve could offer retail bank accounts, in part to reduce the number of “unbanked” people.
As head of the OCC, Omarova is said to have overseen an agency responsible for regulating assets held by more than 1,000 banks.
But her appointment was particularly notable for the attacks it sparked from some Republicans on her personal background.
Omarova was born in the former Soviet Union, present-day Kazakhstan, and received her undergraduate degree from Moscow State University.
At Omarova’s nomination hearing last month, Senator John Kennedy, R-La., Gasped after raising her childhood.
“I don’t know if I should call you ‘teacher’ or ‘comrade’,” he said.
“I am not a communist,” replied Omarova. “I don’t subscribe to this ideology. I couldn’t choose where I was born.”
President Biden, in a statement, sharply criticized the personal nature of some of the attacks on Omarova.
“As a strong advocate for consumers and a strong advocate for the safety and soundness of our financial system, Willow would have brought invaluable vision and perspective to our important work on behalf of the American people,” Biden said in a statement.
“But unfortunately, from the very start of his appointment, Willow was the subject of inappropriate personal attacks that were far beyond pallor,” he added.