Split Senate Committee Advances Gensler’s SEC Nomination

The divided committee vote sets the stage for Gary Gensler’s consideration by the full Senate, a step for which the timing remains unclear, given the chamber’s many competing legislative priorities.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs voted Wednesday afternoon to advance the nomination of Gary Gensler as chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for a full Senate vote.

In addition to advancing Gensler’s nomination, the committee also advanced President Joe Biden’s pick to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Rohit Chopra, although his vote in the committee was evenly split 12 to 12 and required some additional legislative wrangling to progress.

Prior to today’s action, both nominees underwent a lengthy joint confirmation hearing last week in which Democratic senators warmly praised Gensler and Chopra’s credentials for these key cabinet posts. Republican senators, on the other hand, voiced significant skepticism, especially about the role of the CFPB and their belief that, under Chopra’s leadership, the regulator would be too aggressive in pursuing its mission of protecting financial services consumers.

In echoing those comments during Wednesday’s hearing, Ranking Member Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, suggested the CFPB and the SEC should not be permitted to use their authority to address racial inequality in board rooms or to investigate potentially problematic political spending by corporations and their leaders. These are both areas in which Chopra and Gensler have pledged to focus their work, along with various other priorities aligned with the broader Biden administration agenda. 

Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, reiterated his party’s view that these nominees have deep systemic knowledge pertaining to their potential jobs, as well as “an understating of the reality of the economy that most families live in.”

Given the divided nature of last week’s hearing, Gensler’s nearly party-line vote of 14 to 10 was largely anticipated by sources, suggesting the full Senate vote could be tighter for Gensler (and Chopra) than for other cabinet picks debated and voted on thus far. Still, both Gensler and Chopra are expected to be confirmed by the full Senate sometime in the near future, either with a few Republicans offering their support or with Vice President Kamala Harris casting a tie-breaking vote.

Today’s hearing ran for only about 15 minutes and is available to view on demand here.