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'Professor or Comrade'? US Senator Asks Biden Nominee Raised in USSR If She 'Resigned' From Komsomol

© REUTERS / TOM BRENNERSaule Omarova, President Biden's nominee to head the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, answers a question from a Senator during a hearing with the Senate Banking Committee at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., November 18, 2021.
Saule Omarova, President Biden's nominee to head the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, answers a question from a Senator during a hearing with the Senate Banking Committee at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., November 18, 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 18.11.2021
A conservative US senator drew guffaws on Thursday during a confirmation hearing for a Department of Treasury nominee who was raised in the Soviet Union after he repeatedly asserted that she was a communist.
Saule Omarova, a Kazakh-American who was raised in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), has been nominated to lead the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), a US Department of the Treasury agency. However, the line of questioning at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday strayed far from her professional qualifications, especially when some senators started asking questions.
Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) in particular was concerned about Omarova's membership as a child in the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League, better known as the Komsomol.
The organisation was a youth group tied to the Communist Party that was sort of like the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts: youth were educated in strong ethics, trained in practical skills, and performed community service. They also made important political connections that could help in advancing one's career. Yet, contrary to what Omarova claimed, membership was not compulsory.
"There was a group called the 'Young Communists' and you were a member, is that right?", the senator asked.
"Senator, I grew up in the Soviet Union. Everybody in that country was a member of the Komsomol, which was the communist youth organisation", she answered.

"So, you were a member?", Kennedy then asked.

"That was a part of normal progress in school", she clarified.
"Have you resigned?", he then asked.
"You grow out of it with age automatically", Omarova explained. The oldest age members of the Komsomol could be was 28 years old.

"Did you send them a letter, though?", Kennedy asked. Omarova then tried to explain that one aged out of Komsomol membership, but that answer hardly satisfied him. "Could you look at your records and see if you can find a copy?", he then asked.

At that point, the committee's chairman, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), then intervened to explain to the inquisitive lawmaker that Omarova had renounced her Soviet citizenship in 1991, when she left that country and moved to the United States.
The Komsomol, it must be noted, dissolved itself in 1991, having previously been greatly reduced in its prestige by other political reforms in the 1980s.
Social media users wasted no time mocking Kennedy's insinuations, joking that they had never resigned from the Boy Scouts of America or from various other social organisations. Others dismissed Americans' lack of knowledge of Soviet history and of contemporary Russian society.
However, Kennedy wasn't done. He then turned to Omarova's academic writings, listing off several titles and topics he found objectionable, including a paper on Karl Marx's seminal economic text "Capital" that she had written as part of her undergraduate studies at Moscow State University, from which she graduated in 1989.

"I don't know whether to call you professor or comrade", Kennedy declared when he was done reading off her CV.

"Oh my goodness", another lawmaker could be heard mumbling to herself on an open mic.
Omarova then explained that she is not a communist and does "not subscribe to that ideology" and described the suffering her family experienced under the rule of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, saying it was "seared in my mind".

"I came to this country, I'm proud to be an American, and this is why I'm here today, Senator: I'm here today because I'm ready for public service", she answered.

The Cornell Law School professor's ordeal still wasn't yet over, even if Kennedy's time was. Another lawmaker, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), gave her a similar grilling, if not quite so eccentric, including about why his colleagues had been accused of "McCarthyism" for their line of questioning and why she hadn't supplied the committee with a copy of her undergraduate thesis paper as requested. She explained that she didn't bring it with her when she came to the US, bringing just a single suitcase of belongings.
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), the committee's ranking member, ended the hearing with another speech about Omarova's political views.
"Prof. Omarova has promoted radical - radical is her description - nationalising the banking system, imposing government price controls, espousing the idea that money is a public, not a private good, curtailing economic innovation, dramatically limiting economic freedom and choice, having the government seize seats on corporate boards", Toomey said.

"These are ideas consistent with the socialist view of a command and control economy... The idea that we would put a person with these views as the chief regulator of America's national banks is deeply disturbing and chilling".

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