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GOP Sen. Pat Toomey defends Stephen Moore hours before he withdraws from Fed consideration

Key Points
  • Republican Sen. Pat Toomey says he would be "inclined to support" conservative pundit Stephen Moore for a Federal Reserve Board seat.
  • Toomey says he believes the controversial writings of President Donald Trump's Fed pick were meant to be "tongue-in-cheek," adding, "I don't think that that is disqualifying for him."
  • Moore later Thursday withdrew from consideration, according to a tweet from the president.
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Stephen Moore's past comments are not disqualifying for Fed position: Sen. Toomey

Sen. Pat Toomey, an influential Republican on the Finance and Budget committees, told CNBC on Thursday that he would be "inclined to support" conservative pundit Stephen Moore for a Federal Reserve Board seat.

"I don't think he's a misogynist or anything of the sort," said Toomey, referring to Moore, who has been under fire for his past writings — particularly those disparaging women — on the heels of President Donald Trump mentioning his name for the Fed position in March.

Moore later Thursday withdrew from consideration, according to a tweet from the president.

Several other Republican senators this week expressed hesitation about Moore, a former campaign advisor to Trump and now a fellow at the right-leaning Heritage Foundation.

In a "Squawk Box" interview, Toomey, a Pennsylvania senator, said he believes Moore's writings were meant to be "tongue-in-cheek."

"From what I have seen at this point, I don't think that that is disqualifying for him," said Toomey, who as a member of the Senate Finance Committee would review a Moore nomination if the White House submits one.

But, Toomey added, "I think people ought to take a look at those" writings.

Toomey based his opinions on knowing Moore for years. In 2005, he succeeded Moore as head of the Club for Growth, the free enterprise advocacy group that Moore founded in 1999.

In an interview Thursday with Bloomberg News, Moore brushed aside concerns that he does not have enough Republican votes in the Senate at the moment to win confirmation if the White House formally submits his name for review.

He also said he was confident he will win approval by the full Senate after the White House and the FBI complete a background check and other vetting, and "if we steer the discussion away from things I wrote 20, 25 years ago."

"This is probably going to be a three-month process," Moore said. The situation today is going to be a lot different three months from now."

"I think I'm going to win a big majority. ... Just because a senator today says they won't vote for me doesn't mean that three months from now they won't."

Trump's other recent Fed pick, Herman Cain, dropped out after several Republican senators said they would not support him. Assuming that every Democrat and independent in the Senate opposes him, Moore can only afford to lose the support of GOP senators if he hopes to win approval for a board seat on the central bank.

In a CNBC interview on Tuesday, Moore said that he hopes he's judged on the economic advice he's provided to the president and his top advisors — advice he said has led to the best economy in 20 years.

But critics of Moore have said he's been off the mark in his past predictions about the economy.

Asked whether Moore would be respected as a Fed governor, Toomey said that nobody who makes predictions about the economy is correct all the time. He noted that both he and Moore were incorrect in believing that prolonged central bank bond buying to support the economy well after the 2008 financial crisis would cause inflation.

However, Toomey argued, "The Fed has been dead wrong on the GDP projections for I don't know how long, consistently overestimating growth during the Obama years, underestimating it more recently" under Trump.

"I think a different point-of-view would be helpful."

Jeremy Siegel, the longtime stock market bull and influential Wharton School professor, said he feels the same way — arguing Wednesday on CNBC that Moore's bid would challenge the status quo at the Fed. Putting aside the Moore controversies, Siegel accused central bankers of suffering from groupthink that can lead to policy errors. The professor believes the Fed's rate increase in December was a mistake.

Meanwhile, Moore's harsh criticism of the Fed is in line with Trump's views. In fact, the president Tuesday tweeted calls for the central bank to reduce short-term borrowing costs by 1%.

But a day later, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell dashed hopes for an interest rate cut down the road by describing low inflation as likely "transitory." Powell spoke at the post-Fed meeting news conference Wednesday afternoon, shortly after policymakers made no changes in rates.

And Moore in his Bloomberg interview on Thursday said, "I'm not so sure I agree with the White House that we should cut rates by an entire percentage point."

"I just don't see the case for that right now," Moore said.

— CNBC's Christina Wilkie, Jeff Cox and Dan Mangan, as well as Reuters contributed to this report.

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