Like Trump rails against Fed, Powell takes to Capitol Hill

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell intensified his search for US legislators during the summer, reviewing his public calendar programs, although President Donald Trump increased the attacks on Fed and Powell himself.

PHOTO PHOTO: Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell testifies before a consultation of the Senate of the Bank and City Committee on the Semi-Annual Monetary Policy Report to Congress, at Capitol Hill, Washington, DC, March 1[ads1], 2018. REUTERS / Yuri Gripas / Filfoto

Powell had at least 33 individual meetings with members of the congress in June, July and August, and surpassed the 27 meetings he took in his first four months at work, monthly calendars posted on the Fed website show. All said, he had more than tripled the number of meetings with legislators in his first seven months compared to his predecessor Janet Yellen.

Most of Powell's meetings in recent months took place personally at Capitol Hill. Over two particularly intense mid-August days he met with seven members of the Senate Banking Committee, paid together with the House Financial Services Committee with the supervision of the central bank.

Powell met with a few more Republicans than Democrats, reflecting the general makeup of Congress

The calendar does not say what was discussed or who initiated the meetings, and a Fed spokesman refused to comment. But Powell told Marketplace Radio in June that he sees "walking those halls" in Congress to meet legislators an important part of his job.

All in all, as Trump promises increasingly point to criticism of the Fed, and interest rates rise, which began under Yellen and still under Powell, her Trump-appointed successor.

Trump made his first public commentary indicating the fear of his choice July 19, when he told CNBC, he was "not excited" about Fed's interest rate hikes. In August, in an interview with Reuters, he asked the Fed to help with the economy.

This month he has called Fed "mad" and a threat to economic growth. On Tuesday, he told the Wall Street Journal that he might "regret" to appoint Powell.

Orrin Hatch, Republican leader of the Senate Financing Committee, on Wednesday defended Powell, says Bloomberg News, "I do not agree with everything they do, but they are still pretty good people." Hatch is among the congressmen with whom Powell has met.

At the same time, Powell and his colleagues continued to raise interest rates and rarely go for a week without more Fed decision makers who provide public comments about why interest rate hikes are needed in light of a 49-year economy and inflation near Fed s 2 percent target.

Congress urges the Fed to pursue full employment and stable prices.

Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester repeated Wednesday that Trump's public criticism does not affect political decisions.

Fed decision makers realize that rising interest rates although a few times will probably slow down the economy and increase unemployment, but it is a reasonable price to pay to keep inflation intact.

"Everyone should be allowed to criticize us and the question of whether we do the right actions, or not," said President Charles Evans, former president of Chicago. "And this is where Fed's leader and the rest of us go public and talk about just why we implemented these actions and hopefully people understand it."

Reporting Ann Saphir; Editing Andrea Ricci

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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