Powell Faces Pressure from Congress on Interest Policy and Capital

In his upcoming testimony before Congress, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is expected to face pressure from lawmakers who are impatient with the central bank’s approach to interest rate cuts and its recent plans to boost capital requirements for Wall Street lenders. Powell is scheduled to address Congress on Tuesday and Wednesday in his semiannual testimony, after more than two years of gradually raising interest rates with his colleagues to curb rising inflation.

These sessions represent Powell’s last public speech before the presidential election, and he is likely to defend the central bank’s position of keeping interest rates high for longer, as well as assert his independence from politics. The pressure on Powell stems from differing opinions among lawmakers who are concerned about the impact of high interest rates on economic growth and the need for the Fed to support the economy during difficult times. Some lawmakers may also express dissatisfaction with recent efforts by the central bank to strengthen financial rules and capital requirements for Wall Street banks.

Powell’s testimony will provide insights into the Fed’s thinking on monetary policy, its assessment of the economic outlook, and its plans for future interest rate adjustments. As head of the central bank, Powell’s statements and reactions during the hearings could have a significant impact on market expectations and investor sentiment. In June, Fed officials lowered their forecast for the number of interest rate cuts they expect this year. They indicated they would keep interest rates at their current levels, the highest in two decades, until they see more evidence that inflation is moving toward their 2% target. Powell reiterated this message in his comments last week and declined to set a date for when interest rate cuts would begin.

The Fed’s preferred measure of inflation

Recent data suggests that the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation slowed in May after a turbulent start to the year. A separate measure released on Thursday is expected to show that core inflation recorded the smallest consecutive monthly gain since August. These developments indicate that the Fed is adopting a cautious approach in adjusting monetary policy. While there were expectations of a possible interest rate cut earlier this year, the central bank is now waiting for more evidence of easing inflationary pressures before taking any further steps.

The market and investors will be closely watching Powell’s testimony before Congress to gain insights into the Fed’s stance on interest rates, inflation, and the general economic outlook. Any indications of a potential shift in the central bank’s approach to monetary policy could have major implications for financial markets. However, the labor market is also cooling, and some Fed officials are beginning to warn of the risks of a further slowdown. Although June job gains remain strong, they were concentrated in health care and government, and previous months were revised downward. The unemployment rate rose to 4.1%, the highest level since late 2021.

Democrats are calling for lower interest rates to ease consumers into seeing economic growth. These Democrats argue that higher borrowing costs negatively impact consumers who are already living off higher rates. As the voter employment problem continues to swell, the question of interest rate cuts and the timing is turning into a hot-button issue ahead of next November’s presidential election. At the hearing held by the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday, Senator Elizabeth Warren may pressure Powell to lower interest rates. She and their Democratic colleagues sent a letter to Powell last month, demanding that the Fed follow the European Central Bank’s approach to easing monetary policy.

Independence of the Federal Reserve

On the other hand, it prevents some Democrats from resorting to Fed independence measures. There are reports that former President Donald Trump may seek to interfere with the central bank’s authority if he wins a second presidential term. This means that Democrats want to preserve the independence of the central bank and avoid any political interference that threatens its authority and decision-making. Rep. Jim Himes, who will hear from Powell before the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday, expressed his opinion that no member should then pressure the Fed to raise or lower interest rates. The Democratic representative from Connecticut points out that independent central bank policy is one of the pillars of our stable economy. If we start integrating electoral politics and monetary policy, the other side will follow suit. In a short time, the stability of the economy will be at risk.

This reflects concern about political efforts to influence monetary policy decisions and government interference in the independence of the central bank. Hymes believes that the economy depends on the independence of the central bank and its maintenance of political pressure, which seeks to maintain the stability of the financial and economic system in the long term. Clearly, there are mixed opinions on interest rate cuts and their impact on the economy. These opinions are based on an assessment of the economy and available data, and each individual supports his or her view with evidence he or she believes supports it.

MP Brendan Boyle says there is concern about the economic slowdown and believes it is important to take action to deal with it. He also points to the rise in mortgage rates and their impact on the cost of housing, and considers this a matter that requires action.

Central Bank and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

Powell faces pointed questions about US plans to force Wall Street lenders to allocate much more capital. In March, the head of the Federal Reserve said he expected “broad and fundamental changes” to the proposal issued by US regulators last July that could require the eight largest US banks to hold about 19% more capital as a way to mitigate financial shocks. Republicans, including House Financial Services Committee Chairman Patrick McHenry, criticized the original plan. Last September, McHenry and other Republican lawmakers urged regulators to withdraw the proposal

Powell did not say whether the central bank, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency would cancel the original plan. However, Fed officials recently showed other US regulators a three-page document containing potential changes to the planned reform that would significantly ease the burden on big lenders. It is clear that there are concerns and political trends related to the role and independence of the Fed. Senator Warren Powell is accused of giving bank executives too much opportunity to influence monetary policy. On the other hand, Jerome Powell asserts that the Fed does not take politics into account when setting policy, and believes that support for the independence of the Fed is very strong in Congress and among political parties.

There is clearly a tension between political influence and the independence of the Fed. Financial independence and the ability to make independent decisions by the central bank are important for economic stability. However, there must also be a balance between independence and responsibility, as transparency and accountability must be enhanced to ensure that decisions taken reflect the interest of the public and achieve overall economic stability. The Fed’s mission is to balance inflation and employment and promote stability of the financial system.

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