Conservatives urge Trump to stick with Moore for Fed

Conservatives are rallying around economist Stephen Moore as President TrumpDonald John TrumpForget the spin: Five unrefuted Mueller Report revelations Lara Trump: Merkel admitting migrants 'one of the worst things that ever happened to Germany' Financial satisfaction hits record high: survey MORE's controversial pick for the Federal Reserve Board faces a tough fight ahead.

Moore's allies in conservative circles are urging the president and GOP Senate to stand by the controversial potential nominee, who is facing criticism from across the political spectrum and new questions about the White House's support.

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More than 100 economists, professors and activists issued a statement Monday backing Moore for a spot on the Fed board, and the organizers say others are seeking to join the list.

“Steve’s view of the world is something that’s going to be brand new for the Fed and they need to hear it,” Arthur Laffer, a prominent conservative economist close to Moore, said in a phone interview. Laffer was among the Moore supporters who signed the letter.

But their efforts to build momentum for Moore, who has not been formally nominated and is still being vetted, faced fresh uncertainty on Tuesday.

Larry Kudlow, director of the White House National Economic Council, told reporters that officials are interviewing other candidates to potentially replace Moore and Herman Cain, another nominee to the Fed board, as the president's picks.

“We’re talking to a number of candidates. We always do,” Kudlow said. “Stephen Moore is in the process. We support him. We support Herman Cain.”

"We’ll just let things play out in the vetting," Kudlow added.

Moore's supporters are urging the administration to stick by their pick.

“I just hope against hope that there’s not an attempt to replace him,” said Laffer.

Moore declined to comment to The Hill.

Even before Kudlow's remarks, Moore faced a challenging path.

Critics of Moore have seized on his decades of partisan and often controversial commentary. His detractors say Moore’s harsh attacks on Fed officials, close ties to Trump and support for contentious economic ideas make him unfit for the central bank.

Trump floated nominating Moore and Cain to the central bank last month, sparking a firestorm of criticism. Cain, who ran for president in 2012, reportedly is considering withdrawing his name after GOP senators made it clear he lacked the votes for confirmation.

Those who support Moore say his unapologetic advocacy for conservative ideals would add a fresh perspective to the Fed. They also argue that he would find a way to work with the rest of his central bank colleagues despite his often-brash criticism of its current leadership.

Moore has long been a conservative voice in Washington but gained new prominence in 2016 as a Trump campaign adviser, working closely with future Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOn The Money: Fed pick Moore says he will drop out if he becomes a 'political problem' | Trump vows to fight 'all the subpoenas' | Deutsche Bank reportedly turning Trump records over to NY officials | Average tax refund down 2 percent Poll: About half of voters say Congress should focus on getting Trump's tax returns The Hill's Morning Report - Will Joe Biden's unifying strategy work? MORE and others to craft Trump’s economic agenda.

After the election, Moore became the chief evangelist for Trump’s economic policies. He advocated for the president’s proposed tax and spending cuts in several interviews and op-eds, including for The Hill, and co-authored a book with Laffer praising “Trumponomics.”

As Trump ramped up his criticism of the Fed’s rate hikes throughout 2018, Moore echoed his concerns. Moore called for the firing of top Fed officials and economists several times and accused Trump’s handpicked chairman, Jerome Powell, of incompetence.

GOP senators have recoiled at Trump’s consistent attacks on the Fed, and some Republicans have expressed concerns that Moore’s loyalty to the president could impede the central bank’s independence.

Other concerns include the more than $70,000 in taxes the IRS says he owes the federal government — a claim Moore disputes.

Republicans have already derailed two of Trump’s Fed picks. And one week after Trump floated Cain for the Fed board, four GOP senators said they would not support him, all but dooming a nomination.

Moore’s supporters are vying to protect him from a similar fate.

His allies say that Moore is far friendlier in private than his soundbites would let on and expressed confidence he would win over his Fed colleagues if confirmed.

“In person, he’s not that confrontational at all,” Laffer said.

“Once they meet him and sit down with him,” Laffer said of Fed officials, “they’ll fall for him like the rest of us do.”

Some Republicans have also rejected the notion that Moore’s partisan background and outspokenness should bar him from the Fed.

"If anything, what concerns me is this trend toward disqualifying people who have opinions [and] have expressed them,” said Sen. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerOn The Money: Cain withdraws from Fed consideration | Says he didn't want 'pay cut' | Trump sues to block subpoena for financial records | Dems plot next move in Trump tax-return battle Cain withdraws from Fed consideration Cain says he 'won't run away from criticism' in push for Fed seat MORE (R-N.D.), who opposed Cain’s nomination, on Friday. “We're going to have to start building robots for these jobs if we aren't careful."

No GOP senators have come out and opposed Moore for the Fed. And many have praised his record of advocacy for conservative economic ideals, while stopping short of directly endorsing him.

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyCongress can retire the retirement crisis On The Money: Inside the Mueller report | Cain undeterred in push for Fed seat | Analysis finds modest boost to economy from new NAFTA | White House says deal will give auto sector B boost The 7 most interesting nuggets from the Mueller report MORE (R-Iowa) called Moore “a good economist, free-market guy" that "ought to have a big voice in D.C.” And Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig Shelby20 Dems demand no more money for ICE agents, Trump wall Conservatives urge Trump to stick with Moore for Fed Poll: Roy Moore leading Alabama GOP field MORE (R-Ala.), the longest-tenured Republican on the Banking Committee, said Moore has “a lot of experience” in federal economic policy.

Moore’s critics counter that his unconventional economic opinions reflect a lack of fitness for the Fed. He faced a grilling in a live CNN interview last week over his shifting support for the gold standard, and economists have rebuffed his claims that broad price declines do not show up in federal inflation data.

Moore’s allies have pushed back on concerns about his intellectual qualifications.

“He’s got a long history of being a small-government Republican,” said J.W. Verret, a law professor at George Mason University. “The fact that he’s done some think tank punditry shouldn’t be held against him.”

If nominated, though, Moore can afford to lose few Republicans, with Democrats already vowing to give him a tough hearing.

In a letter to Moore, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenColbert links large 2020 Dem field to Avengers: 'A group of every available person in the universe' Seven big decisions facing Biden in 2020 primary Sanders dominates, Buttigieg surges in 2020 social media battle MORE (D-Mass.), who sits on the Banking panel and is certain to oppose him, raised his past remarks, saying they "strongly suggest that you lack the capacity to exercise the seriousness, care, consistency, and political independence expected of members of the Board of Governors."

Updated at 9:28 p.m