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Senate Banking Chairman Sherrod Brown, left, and ranking member Patrick J. Toomey steered the nominees through the committee last week.
Senate Banking Chairman Sherrod Brown, left, and ranking member Patrick J. Toomey steered the nominees through the committee last week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate by voice vote Monday confirmed Martin Gruenberg as chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and two Republicans to the agency’s board, returning it to its full capacity.

Senate Banking Chairman Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, praised Gruenberg and his track record at the FDIC. Gruenberg first joined the banking regulator in 2005 and chaired it from 2012 to 2018.

“Mr. Gruenberg’s credentials speak for themselves. A career public servant, the longest serving member of the FDIC board, and the Senate has confirmed him unanimously five times. He’s been nominated and confirmed over and over again,” Brown said on the Senate floor. “I don’t remember any FDIC nominee, or I’m not sure I remember any nominee for anything, that’s had that kind of experience, that level of expertise.”

The Senate also confirmed Republicans Jonathan McKernan and Travis Hill to the board and designated Hill as vice chair in the same en bloc vote. 

The en bloc action followed a separate 45-39 vote to confirm Gruenberg to a six-year term on the FDIC board. His previous term expired in 2018, but members are allowed to remain on the board until replaced. The chairmanship is a five-year term. 

Besides his previous chairmanship, Gruenberg has had three stints as acting chairman: from 2005 to 2006, 2011 to 2012 and since February. 

“Mr. Gruenberg has seen our financial system at its highest and its lowest points during the financial crisis when Wall Street and big corporations crashed our economy,” Brown said. “He brings this experience and dedication with him as our country emerges from the pandemic.” 

Brown said a bipartisan deal to confirm Gruenberg along with McKernan and Hill to the board won the support of Senate Banking ranking member Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pa., who voted to confirm Gruenberg to the board. 

Toomey and other Republicans had previously criticized Gruenberg for his involvement last year in circumventing then-Chair Jelena McWilliams to open public review of the FDIC’s bank merger review policies. McWilliams resigned from the FDIC after the board’s Democrats, including Gruenberg and two ex officio members — Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Rohit Chopra and acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael Hsu — held a written vote in December 2021 to open that public review.

After that vote, Chopra and Gruenberg released the comment request through the CFPB. Hours later, the FDIC issued a statement denouncing the CFPB statement and the validity of the written vote. McWilliams resigned shortly afterward, and Gruenberg took over as acting board chairman. 

The Justice Department in an August opinion sided with the board’s Democrats, saying the statute governing the FDIC grants authority to “the board, not the chairperson.” Still, the issue has remained a sticking point for Republicans. 

Toomey praised the confirmation of Hill and McKernan in a statement. Both have worked for Republicans on Senate Banking.

Hill worked for the FDIC from 2018 to 2022 under McWilliams as the senior adviser to the chairman and then deputy chairman for policy. He also worked for Senate Banking Republicans from 2013 to 2018, including as senior counsel when the committee was led by Sen. Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., and later Sen. Michael D. Crapo, R-Idaho. 

McKernan works as counsel for Senate Banking Republicans on a temporary assignment from the Federal Housing Finance Agency, where he is a senior counsel at FHFA. He previously worked as a senior policy adviser to the Treasury Department and for Sen. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican who retired in 2019.

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