Anxious for Re-Election, Senator Richard Shelby Refuses to Act on Banking Nominations

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Senator Richard C. Shelby of Alabama and chairman of the Senate banking committee on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. Mr. Shelby has not acted on a single nominee in this Congress. CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times.

WASHINGTON — As the Senate banking committee convened earlier this month to listen to testimony from Janet L. Yellen, the Federal Reservechairwoman, Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the highest-ranking Democrat on the committee, all but dusted off the chairs and shook moths from the curtains.

“It’s good to see everyone back in this hearing room,” Mr. Brown said. “This is our first gathering since October. Welcome back.”

Senator Richard C. Shelby, the Alabama Republican who is the committee’s chairman, looked on in the manner of someone who had just been served sour milk. As he seeks his sixth term with an anxious eye out for a primary challenger on his right flank, Mr. Shelby, 81, is leaving nothing to chance — even if that means effectively shutting down the entire United States Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.

To avoid the sort of controversy that can animate primary voters on March 1, Mr. Shelby has stalled the work of the committee in the name of an increasingly familiar Republican tactic — failing to approve President Obama’s nominees. He now has the distinction of running the only committee in the Senate that has not acted on a single nominee in this Congress.

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As a result, Mr. Shelby has interfered with economic sanctions and hampered the work of the Export-Import Bank and the Federal Reserve. The committee’s work spans a number of policy areas, and so do the officials it approves. Or in this case, fails to approve.

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