GOP lawmakers are downplaying President TrumpDonald John TrumpDave Chappelle: Trump ‘speaking to a very small choir’ in an ‘eclectic’ country Three reasons Mueller may not charge Trump with obstruction Alabama grocery store says it won’t sell Pepsi products with NFL logo to oppose kneeling protests MORE‘s escalating attacks on the Federal Reserve, saying his comments are unlikely to influence the central bank’s policy makers, many of whom were appointed by Trump.
Republicans on Capitol Hill said that while they may disagree with the substance of Trump’s remarks, they support his right to break with decades of White House precedent by publicly criticizing the Fed, an entity that fiercely guards its independence from politics.
The president on Wednesday blamed the Fed for the steep stock market slide, telling reporters that the central bank “has gone crazy” and is “making a mistake” with its “ridiculous” rate hikes. Later that day he said the Fed “is going wild.”
Sen. Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsGOP shrugs off dire study warning of global warming Senate GOP expects FBI report by Wednesday afternoon Senate GOP coy on when final vote on Kavanaugh will happen MORE (R-S.D.), a member of the Senate Banking Committee, said Trump is just expressing his opinion.
“I have no objection to him sharing his thoughts on it just like all of us like to share our thoughts on it,” Rounds said. “I don’t think it will pose a challenge to the Fed’s independence.”
In July, Trump broke two decades of White House silence on the Fed’s monetary policy when he said he was “not thrilled” about interest rate hikes. The following month he made similar remarks but also expressed displeasure with Chairman Jerome Powell. Trump nominated Powell to replace former Fed chief Janet YellenJanet Louise YellenOn The Money: McCarthy offers bill to fully fund Trump border wall | US to press China on currency in trade talks | Mnuchin plans to go ahead with Saudi trip | How America’s urban-rural divide is changing the Dems Trump blames the Fed for market meltdown but could blame himself Trump says he’s ‘not happy’ with latest Fed rate hike MORE, an Obama-era appointee.
Trump escalated his attacks this past week as the stock market suffered a significant slide on Wednesday and Thursday. He explicitly pinned blame on the Fed, which has raised interest rates toward historically neutral levels.
“I don’t know what their problem is,” Trump said late Wednesday.
His barbs did little more than raise eyebrows on Wall Street, and the market did not appear to move in response to the president’s comments.
Karen Petrou, managing partner at Federal Financial Analytics, said it was “fascinating … how immediately U.S. markets totally discounted what the president said.”
She said the yawning reaction on Wall Street is likely a sign that traders “are getting used to him saying a lot of things that no president has said before and they have confidence in the Fed’s strength and independence.”
Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownThe Hill’s Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Dem victories in `18 will not calm party turbulence Election Countdown: Minnesota Dems worry Ellison allegations could cost them key race | Dems struggle to mobilize Latino voters | Takeaways from Tennessee Senate debate | Poll puts Cruz up 9 in Texas Poll: Cordray leads DeWine by 6 points in Ohio governor race MORE (Ohio), the top Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee who’s up for reelection this year in a state Trump won in 2016, said Trump’s attacks on the Fed are a symptom of his governing style.
“People are so used to this president commenting on everything and being critical of everybody else and pointing fingers — it’s always somebody else’s fault — of course he’s going to do it,” he said.
Unlike previous presidents, lawmakers have been critical of the Fed throughout the bank’s history. A 2016 measure sponsored by Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulFive things to watch for in deteriorating US-Saudi relations Kavanaugh fight a GOP wake up call, but more is needed Senators warn Trump that Saudi relationship is on the line MORE (R-Ky.) to audit the Fed came within seven votes of passing the Senate.
But GOP supporters of that effort, which would have allowed more government oversight of the independent institution, said they respect the Fed’s independence and don’t think that Trump is working to undermine the bank.
Banking Committee Chairman Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoGOP loads up lame-duck agenda as House control teeters Republicans shift course after outside counsel falters GOP senator calls Ford ‘credible’ MORE (R-Idaho) said Trump’s criticisms won’t sway the Fed, but he declined to comment on whether it was appropriate for the president to blast the bank.
Crapo’s predecessor as the Banking panel chairman, Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyFlorida politics play into disaster relief debate On The Money: Trump signs spending bill, preventing shutdown | House votes to extend individual tax cuts | Tesla shares plunge after SEC charges Musk with fraud Trump signs spending bill, preventing shutdown MORE (R-Ala.), said he’s confident the Fed will follow the data, not Trump.
“Price stability is important to all of us, so let’s see what the Fed does, how they do it,” Shelby said. “But they probably have information that maybe we don’t have.”
For almost four decades, the Fed has operated under a congressional mandate to “promote effectively the goals of maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long term interest rates.”
Most Republicans are eager to see the Fed neutralize interest rates as unemployment falls into record-low territory and inflation begins to pick up. But Trump has blasted the Fed for raising borrowing costs, saying the rate hikes are suppressing the stock market, his favored metric for economic success.
Stock markets have registered significant gains since Trump took office, and analysts say they’re poised for a correction. While higher interest rates are weighing on markets, traders have also been rattled by the protracted U.S.-China trade war.
“The stock market is [Trump’s] economic report card, so if it’s in the red he’s falling, and he’s going to do anything he can to get that in green,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics.
“Investors are discounting what the president is saying. They’re not putting any weight on his criticism or protestations,” Zandi said, adding that investors have already priced in a likely December rate hike by the Fed.
Trump has few options to sway the Fed even if he decided to take action. The president is prohibited by law from firing the Fed chairman for anything other than extreme misconduct, and Republicans are unlikely to support Fed nominees seen as cronies to the president.
“This is a lot of noise, but at the end of the says nothing of substance,” Zandi said. “He’s not going to try to replace Powell or pack the Fed that are only sympathetic to his perspective.”