GOP senators urge Trump not to pick Cain for Fed

A number of Republican senators are speaking out against President TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy New York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment Trump rips Michigan Rep. Dingell after Fox News appearance: 'Really pathetic!' MORE nominating Herman Cain to the Federal Reserve Board, questioning his character and qualifications to serve on the independent central bank.

Trump said last week that he intends to nominate Cain for the Fed board, but senators on Tuesday publicly raised concerns, citing the accusations of sexual harassment that derailed Cain's 2012 presidential campaign and his leadership of a super PAC supporting Trump’s reelection.

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"I think it's important that the board be comprised of people who are academics, economists, and not people who are highly partisan," said Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyIs a trap being set for Trump in the Senate trial? The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by AdvaMed — House panel delays impeachment vote until Friday Senate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial MORE (R-Utah) on Tuesday.

"We can't turn the Federal Reserve into a more partisan entity," Romney added. "That would be the wrong course."

If nominated, Cain would face a confirmation hearing in the Senate Banking Committee before being considered by the full chamber, with the sexual harassment allegations against him in the spotlight.

Cain was accused of sexual harassment in 2011 by four women, two of whom had previously settled with the National Restaurant Association, a Washington, D.C., trade group Cain led from 1996 to 1999. Cain has denied all the allegations.

Democrats would likely vote unanimously against Cain, and his confirmation could be blocked if four of the 53 Republican senators oppose him.

That path became more difficult Tuesday after new resistance among Republicans.

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneTrump scramble to rack up accomplishments gives conservatives heartburn House GOP lawmaker wants Senate to hold 'authentic' impeachment trial Republicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial MORE (R-S.D.) told Politico on Tuesday that Republican senators have voiced their objections to the White House.

"They’re probably going to hear from a number of our members about concerns that they have," said Thune, the Senate Republican whip. "Whether or not that gets them to make a course change or not, I don’t know."

Trump has expressed confidence in Cain, and White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow played down the seriousness of the allegations against Cain in a Sunday television interview.

But Cain himself has voiced doubts about his political viability. In a video posted Friday to his Facebook page, Cain said he’s facing a "cumbersome" vetting process that he wasn’t sure he would survive.

GOP senators Tuesday were split on Cain’s qualifications, with some saying his tenure with the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City makes him a strong candidate on paper. Cain served in several top advisory roles for the Kansas City Fed between 1989 and 1996, including chairman for the final two years of that stint.

But even those who touted Cain’s experience said they had questions about his character.

Sen. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerOn The Money: Lawmakers strike spending deal | US, China reach limited trade deal ahead of tariff deadline | Lighthizer fails to quell GOP angst over new NAFTA Lighthizer fails to quell GOP angst on trade deal Republicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial MORE (R-N.D.), a member of the Banking Committee, said Cain’s political support for Trump would play no role in his decision but that the sexual harassment allegations will be "certainly part of it."

"It's just sort of a vague memory right now," Cramer said of the allegations, "but it's hard not to hear Herman Cain in the context of something like this and immediately recall some of those challenges."

Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottTrump to sign order penalizing colleges over perceived anti-Semitism on campus: report Here are the Senate Republicans who could vote to convict Trump GOP senators unveil bill to expand 'opportunity zone' reporting requirements MORE (R-S.C.), another Banking Committee member, said Cain was "obviously qualified" given his time at the Kansas City Fed but added that the "question is what is his entire portfolio of his activities and interests and challenges."

When asked about the allegations against Cain, Scott said, "That's a part of what I need to look at."

GOP senators faced political pressure during the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughOvernight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Progressives hope to avoid drug-pricing showdown with Pelosi | 'Medicare for All' backers get high-profile hearing | Dems take victory lap after eliminating drug protections in trade deal Justices grapple with multibillion-dollar ObamaCare case Potential Dem defectors face pressure on impeachment MORE, who also denied allegations of sexual misconduct.

But many Republicans are hoping to avoid another such hearing with the 2020 election approaching.

Asked about Cain's expected nomination, Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiIs a trap being set for Trump in the Senate trial? The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by AdvaMed — House panel delays impeachment vote until Friday Senate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial MORE (R-Alaska) said, "I'm going to do my due diligence, but I'm not so favorably inclined right now."

"I'm going to look into this, first of all. This is still relatively new this week," said Murkowski, who voted against Kavanaugh.

"I have some concerns about some of the things that relate to Mr. Cain," she added.

Several female Republicans have spoken out since the Kavanaugh confirmation about their own experiences with abuse and sexual assault, including Sens. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstWhite House makes push for paid family leave and child care reform Houston police chief stands by criticism of McConnell, Cruz, Cornyn: 'This is not political' Democrats spend big to put Senate in play MORE of Iowa and Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallySeven years after Sandy Hook, the politics of guns has changed The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by AdvaMed — House panel delays impeachment vote until Friday White House makes push for paid family leave and child care reform MORE of Arizona.

McSally on Tuesday declined to comment on Cain’s potential nomination, while Erst said she was "unenthused" about Trump’s pick.

Cain would be Trump’s second controversial pick for the Federal Reserve board this year, joining former campaign adviser and conservative commentator Stephen Moore.

Moore, an opinion contributor for The Hill, also has not been formally nominated, but some Republicans have balked at his fierce partisanship and several statements they worry could hurt the central bank's reputation for independence.

"Herman Cain ... was on the [Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City], so he's obviously been a part of the system and knows something about it," said Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGrassley urges White House to help farmers in year-end tax talks The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by AdvaMed — House panel delays impeachment vote until Friday The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday MORE (R-Iowa). "Stephen Moore, as far as I'm concerned, is a good economist, free-market guy, just a guy who ought to have a big voice in D.C. Now, that's not saying they should be on the Fed."

Alexander Bolton contributed.