FILE PHOTO: U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) speaks during U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., October 13, 2020. Kevin Dietsch/Pool via REUTERS

November 17, 2020

(Reuters) – The exposure of a second Republican senator to the coronavirus threw into doubt Tuesday the U.S. Senate’s vote on Republican President Donald Trump’s controversial pick for the Federal Reserve, former economic adviser Judy Shelton.

U.S. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, the chamber’s president pro tempore, said on Tuesday he was in quarantine after being exposed to the coronavirus and was awaiting test results.

Grassley, 87, said in a statement that he was “feeling well and not currently experiencing any symptoms” but would follow public health guidelines and would continue to work from home. Grassley is also chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

Republican Senator Rick Scott of Florida is also quarantining because of exposure to the virus.

Trump’s Republican Party has a 53-47 majority in the current Senate. Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander on Monday joined Republican colleagues Mitt Romney and Susan Collins in indicating he opposes Shelton’s confirmation.

A procedural vote was expected to come on Tuesday afternoon, with a final vote on Shelton’s confirmation later in the day. But Grassley’s absence could deprive Republicans of the necessary majority to muscle through Shelton’s confirmation. Senate rules do not allow for voting by proxy.

Shelton, an adviser to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, has argued the nation would be better off returning to the gold standard and as recently as 2017 criticized the Fed’s power over money and financial markets as “quite unhealthy.”

Her views on interest rates have moved in lockstep with Trump’s. She lambasted easy money before Trump’s presidency but supported it after he took office, and has expressed skepticism over the Fed’s need to set policy independently from the president and Congress.

(Reporting by David Morgan; writing by Ann Saphir; editing by Andrew Heavens and Jonathan Oatis)

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