Lawrence H. Summers, the former Treasury secretary and senior economic advisor to the White House, withdrew his name for candidacy for Federal Reserve chairman on Sunday, raising questions as to who will lead the central bank after Ben Bernanke steps down.
Following public backlash among women’s groups, liberal Democrats and other advocacy organizations, Summers withdrew his resignation. President Obama said he is also considering Fed Vice Chairman Janet L. Yellen and former Fed vice chairman Don Kohn for the positions, though he favored Summers, The Washington Post reports.
“It has been a privilege to work with you since the beginning of your Administration as you led the nation through a severe recession into a sustained economic recovery,” Summers said in a letter to the president, according to The Washington Post. “This is a complex moment in our national life. I have reluctantly concluded that any possible confirmation process for me would be acrimonious and would not serve the interest of the Federal Reserve, the Administration, or ultimately, the interests of the nation’s ongoing economic recovery.”
Summers’ professional life has been marked with controversy in recent years. He has come under fire for his support of deregulating certain areas of the banking sector, and as president of Harvard University in 2005, he sparked controversy due to his comments on women’s capabilities in math and science.
Sources close to the White House said Summers not only faced a challenge among liberal Democrats but also a debate over whether to take action against Syria, The Washington Post reports.
A number of current and former Obama officials backed Summers, saying his experience helping the president navigate the financial crisis and his background in economics made him an exceptional candidate.
Over the past week, numerous lawmakers, including Democratic Sens. Jon Tester (Mont.) and Sherrod Brown (Ohio), joined Sen. Jeff Merkely (D-Ore.) in opposition to Summers’ nomination, which would have meant the president would have had to seek Republican support to secure Summers’ confirmation.
“The truth is that it was unlikely he would have been confirmed by the Senate,” Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) said, according to The Washington Post.
The announcement could boost markets, which were concerned by the perception that Summers would have been less supportive of the Fed’s strategy to combat unemployment.
“This news should be positive for the markets,” Millan Mulraine, the director of U.S. rates research at TD Securities, said, The Washington Post reports. “We could see a rally.”