White House talking to other possible Fed candidates: Kudlow

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House is considering other possible candidates for the board of the Federal Reserve although U.S. President Donald Trump still backs his two potential nominees, Herman Cain and Stephen Moore, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow listens to a question from the media outside the White House in Washington, U.S., December 3, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Young/File Photo

Kudlow, speaking to reporters at the White House, added that Trump’s picks are still going through the nominating process for the seats on the U.S. central bank’s board of governors.

“We are talking to a number of candidates. We always do,” he said when asked if the White House was vetting alternates for Cain and Moore, whose controversial potential nominations have raised concerns among economists as well as some of Trump’s fellow Republicans.

“We support (Stephen Moore). We support Herman Cain. We’ll just let things play out in the vetting,” he said.

Despite the assurances, Kudlow’s comments could signal the administration is increasingly open to other Fed nominees, amid a rising chorus of opposition to their nominations.

The U.S. Senate must confirm any nominees, and Republicans control the chamber with 53 seats. But four of them have said they oppose Cain, a former pizza company chief executive, effectively sinking his nomination.

Neither candidate’s name has been formally sent to the Senate, but Trump has pledged to do so.

Trump has repeatedly slammed the Fed for raising rates, saying that rate hikes are holding back the economy. His pick of Moore and Cain has been seen by critics as a means to put pressure on the central bank to ease policy and help him politically.

Such pressure could undermine the Fed’s long-guarded image as an independent, nonpartisan entity, economists and other critics have argued.

Moore has spoken on several conservative radio talk shows this month extolling Trump’s economic policies, echoing his view that the Fed’s rate hikes last year were a mistake, and laying out his case for a rate cut, which Trump has called for.

Cain has said the reason he was under attack as a nominee is because he is a conservative. Cain’s bid for president in 2012 was derailed by accusations of sexual harassment that he has repeatedly denied.

“At the end of the day, it will probably be up to Herman Cain if he wants to stay in that process or not,” Kudlow said.

Reporting by Alexandra Alper and Doina Chiacu; Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by David Alexander, Chizu Nomiyama and Susan Thomas