Week ahead: Senate panel to vote on Trump SEC pick | FDA nominee on the hot seat

Greg Nash

President Trump’s pick to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) faces a key hurdle in the coming week.

The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee will meet Tuesday to vote on whether to send Wall Street attorney Jay Clayton’s nomination to the full floor for a vote.

Clayton faced tough questions from Democrats during a three-hour hearing earlier in March, which also saw lawmakers from both parties spar over Wall Street regulation.

Democrats expressed concerns over Clayton’s strong ties to Wall Street, while Republicans claimed his two decades of experience in the financial sector make him more than qualified for the job. 

{mosads}As a partner at the law firm Sullivan & Cromwell, Clayton has worked on public and private mergers and acquisitions, capital markets offerings and regulatory enforcement proceedings. His past clients include Goldman Sachs. 

The committee meeting will begin at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, where lawmakers will vote on advancing Clayton’s nomination to be the top regulator for the nation’s stock markets.

Clayton isn’t the only Trump nominee with a big week ahead.

On Wednesday, Scott Gottlieb, Trump’s pick to head the Food and Drug Administration, will take his turn in the hot seat and face questions from members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Gottlieb, a former FDA official under President George W. Bush, is a nominee that has appeared to please both Democrats and Republicans.

Democrats had worried Trump would tap Jim O’Neill, a Silicon Valley investor without a medical background, who had proposed overhauling how the agency approves new drugs.

Outside groups, though are questioning his ties to the dug industry. 

The New York Times reported that Gottlieb is the acting chief executive of the early-stage cancer biotech company Cell Biotherapy, earned $150,000 to advise Vertex Pharmaceuticals and served as a consultant to pharmaceutical giants like GlaxoSmithKline and Bristol-Myers Squibb. 

In an ethics agreement, though, Gottlieb promised to recuse himself for one year from any agency decisions involving about 20 healthcare companies he worked with, the Times reported. 

It’ll be a busy week for lawmakers who are looking to wrap up work on a number of items before leaving Washington for a two-week Easter recess.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote Monday on whether to advance the Supreme Court nomination of Neil Gorsuch.

A showdown is looming over Gorsuch who needs 60 votes to end a filibuster. Republicans need to pick off eight Democrats and are warning that they will go “nuclear” and change Senate rules to push through Gorsuch if they have to.

Many key Democrats, though, are keeping their votes to themselves.

Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, on Tuesday, officials from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) will be grilled by the House Judiciary Committee over their use of confidential informants

Also on the regulatory and enforcement front, Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), will head to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to deliver his agency’s semi-annual report to Congress.

The hearing could get heated. Cordray is under fire from Republicans, who question the very existence of the agency he leads.

Trump’s election has given momentum to efforts from those lawmakers to restructure or eliminate the agency. And that push has Democrats in a tough spot as they mull whether to work with Republicans to revamp the agency.

A House Financial Services subcommittee will hold a hearing Thursday to consider reforming financial regulations.  The chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), has said reforming the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law will be a top priority this year.


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