It wasn't much, but given the complete lack of movement in the languishing nominations of Hester Peirce and Lisa Fairfax to be SEC commissioners, we'll take it. On Thursday, May 19, the U.S. Senate Banking Committee finally voted to advance the nominations of Peirce and Fairfax to the full Senate for a vote. Peirce and Fairfax were nominated by President Obama way back in October 2015 to fill open Republican and Democrat seats on the Commission, respectively. Peirce is currently a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and Fairfax is a law professor at the George Washington University Law School.
Despite this progress, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) who serves on the Banking Committee said it was "disgraceful that the Senate still hasn't confirmed any of the 20 nominations that the banking committee has received since the start of last year."
Numerous reports following the vote suggested that Peirce and Fairfax still have no clear path to being confirmed and that the Banking Committee vote may merely be "superficial progress." According to the WSJ, many Democrats still oppose both nominees because of an odd stand-off over whether they should be required to opine on if the SEC should require companies to disclose their spending on political activities and contributions. According to the WSJ,
the dispute continues to cast a cloud over the nominees as they move to the full Senate. It is unclear when they will get a floor vote, according to Senate aides and SEC observers.
“Just because they get through the committee doesn’t mean that they’re going to be approved on the floor, and in fact we think there’s a greater than 50% likelihood that they will not go through,” said Yafit Cohn of law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP in New York.
Indeed, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who has been vocal about his dissatisfaction with the nominees on the political activities issue, reportedly hinted that he will now place a "hold" on the two SEC nominations receiving a vote by the full Senate. When asked if planned to do so, he said, “[s]tay tuned.”
On the Republican side, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) reportedly opposes Fairfax because he believes “the SEC needs someone with practical experience.”