Cain's nomination faces uphill climb

President TrumpDonald John TrumpChelsea Clinton announces birth of third child Ukrainian officials and Giuliani are sharing back-channel campaign information: report Trump attacks 'the Squad' as 'racist group of troublemakers' MORE’s plan to nominate Herman Cain to the Federal Reserve Board faces a steep climb with GOP senators.

Trump said Thursday that he intends to tap Cain, a former Republican presidential candidate and corporate executive, as he moves to stock the central bank with loyalists.

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While GOP senators have been largely supportive of Trump’s previous financial nominees, even those with similarly unconventional résumés, there are early signs that Republicans could balk at the president’s latest pick.

Overshadowing his potential nomination are allegations of sexual harassment that Cain has denied, but which derailed a 2012 presidential campaign.

Four women who were employed by Cain at the National Restaurant Association, a Washington trade group, have accused him of sexual harassment, and two of his accusers received financial settlements over their claims.

Those allegations would likely play a prominent role during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking Committee.

Cain has served in several top advisory roles for the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City from 1989 to 1996 and in stints as a fast-food restaurant chief executive and restaurant industry advocate in Washington.

But Cain also started a PAC last year to raise money for Trump’s reelection campaign and has fiercely defended the president on his website and radio show, raising concerns about how he would affect the central bank’s independence.

“Democrats will make more noise about the harassment allegations and obviously about him having a website and super PAC dedicated to defending Trump,” said Ian Katz, director at Capital Alpha Partners, a political intelligence and policy advisory firm.

Cain’s official nomination is contingent on a pending White House background check. Though Trump and his top aides say Cain would likely clear the vetting process, it’s unclear if Republican senators will back a nominee who’s been accused of sexual misconduct multiple times, forcing them to hold public hearings with the 2020 elections ahead.

Cain said in a Friday video posted to his Facebook page that he’s unsure if he would still be nominated after the White House’s “cumbersome” vetting process. But he said he welcomed the chance to defend himself over sexual harassment charges and insisted he was “not going to let the accusers run my life or determine my career.”

“Let them go back and dig up eight-year-old stuff,” Cain said. “I will be able to explain this time where they wouldn’t let me explain it last time. They were too busy believing the accusers.”

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Republican senators also faced political pressure during the confirmation process for Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughMcConnell challenger faces tougher path after rocky launch Lindsey Graham's Faustian bargain Liberal, conservative Supreme Court justices unite in praising Stevens MORE, who denied accusations of sexual assault.

But it is unclear if there is much appetite for a similar public fight over Cain.

Female Republican lawmakers, including Sens. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyTrump angry more Republicans haven't defended his tweets: report Republicans scramble to contain Trump fallout On The Money: Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency | Tech giants on defensive at antitrust hearing | Democrats ask Labor Department to investigate Amazon warehouses MORE (Ariz.), Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstTrump angry more Republicans haven't defended his tweets: report Republicans scramble to contain Trump fallout House Dems, Senate GOP build money edge to protect majorities MORE (Iowa) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsPoll: McConnell is most unpopular senator Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers struggle to understand Facebook's Libra project | EU hits Amazon with antitrust probe | New cybersecurity concerns over census | Robocall, election security bills head to House floor | Privacy questions over FaceApp Trump angry more Republicans haven't defended his tweets: report MORE (Maine), could also face a tough choice over backing the president’s pick. Both McSally and Ernst have spoken this year about their experiences with sexual assault in the past.

The White House has sought to downplay the seriousness of the allegations against Cain, preparing a defense for the potential nominee should Trump decide to move ahead.

Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, expressed confidence in Cain on Sunday, referencing Kavanaugh’s successful confirmation.

“We’ve seen, whether it’s Supreme Court justices or many other things, we’ve seen a lot of charges here,” Kudlow said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“They don’t necessarily pan out,” Kudlow said.

Kudlow also defended Cain’s qualifications for the Fed board, saying he had gained ample experience as chairman of the Kansas City Fed.

Cain’s future could become clearer on Tuesday when senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report — Mueller Time: Dems, GOP ready questions for high-stakes testimony Election security to take back seat at Mueller hearing McConnell challenger faces tougher path after rocky launch MORE (R-Ky.), face reporters for the first time this week.

McConnell has focused on confirming as many Trump nominees as possible, and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoOvernight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Sanders mounts staunch defense of 'Medicare for All' | Biden, Sanders fight over health care heats up | House votes to repeal ObamaCare 'Cadillac Tax' | Dems want details on fetal tissue research ban Hillicon Valley: Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency plan | Trump vows to 'take a look' at Google's ties to China | Google denies working with China's military | Tech execs on defensive at antitrust hearing | Bill would bar business with Huawei Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency at hearing MORE (R-Idaho) has prioritized filling the two remaining spots on the seven-person Fed board.

But the initial reception to Cain being floated for a Fed post was cold at best. A Senate GOP aide predicted to The Washington Post that Cain would not have the votes needed.

The sole Republican to publicly support Cain so far is Georgia Sen. David Perdue, a member of the Senate Banking Committee, who told reporters Friday that he would be “a great addition” to the Fed board.

“He’s a business guy — he’s got a great background for it. I know him personally,” Perdue said of Cain, an Atlanta native whom the senator befriended while both worked in the private sector.

The handful of other Republican senators who’ve commented on Cain’s potential nomination expressed doubts that the president will follow through with an official appointment.

“You never know what they do,” said Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyThe Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants GOP wants commitment that Trump will sign budget deal Schumer warns Mulvaney against drawing hard lines on budget deal MORE (R-Ala.) of the Trump administration.

“A lot of times they throw a nomination out [there], see how it plays. And then they vet them, and then they check them out,” added Shelby, a member and former chairman of the Banking committee.

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyDemocrats should rise above and unify against Trump's tweets Trump steps up attacks on 'Squad' after post-rally furor Media cried wolf: Calling every Republican a racist lost its bite MORE (R-Utah), the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, also said Friday that he doubted Cain would be officially nominated. And Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP wants commitment that Trump will sign budget deal Poll: McConnell is most unpopular senator Senate passes bill making hacking voting systems a federal crime MORE (R-Mo.) demurred Friday when asked his opinion of Cain, saying, “I don’t know anything about his past service.”

A spokeswoman for Crapo declined to comment on Cain’s nomination, and spokespeople for the nine Republicans on the Banking panel other than Shelby and Perdue did not respond to requests for comment.

GOP lawmakers have become more comfortable with breaking from Trump in 2019, including over the emergency declaration, the United States’ role in the Yemeni civil war and the administration’s support for a lawsuit to strike down all of the Affordable Care Act.

But filling the Federal Reserve board also has high stakes for Trump, who has hammered the bank for not lowering interest rates. Trump sees lower rates as essential to having a strong economy in 2020.

For Trump, securing Cain on the Fed could be an important fight to rally his base and exert his control over the bank.

His plans to tap Cain come just two weeks after he said he would tap former campaign adviser and conservative commentator Stephen Moore for the Fed board, drawing criticism for picking a fierce partisan for the independent central bank.

Republicans foiled two of Trump’s previous Fed nominees over concerns about their policy views: Carnegie Mellon professor Marvin Goodfriend and former Fed Director Nellie Liang.

Goodfriend was approved by the Banking panel but never considered by the full Senate after conservatives voiced concerns about his controversial monetary policy proposals. Liang withdrew her nomination earlier this year as Republicans spoke out against her support for strict financial regulations.

Moore, too, has faced his own questions, disputing an IRS claim that he owes the agency $75,000.

Katz said Cain’s supporters will likely cite his chairmanship of the Kansas City Fed. But Katz added that Cain’s “detractors will likely point out that those boards are not policy-making, and are largely regional business execs who advise on economic issues affecting that Fed district.”

Cain’s previous support for the gold standard — tying the value of the U.S. dollar to a set amount of gold — could also cost him support among Republicans.

If Trump does go ahead with the nomination, Katz said it could be a difficult, drawn-out fight.

“For Cain, there may not be one big knockout blow, but he’s going to take a lot of kidney punches,” Katz said.

Jordain Carney contributed.