Republican Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine voted against Shelton’s nomination, in addition to all Democrats, while Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee opposed her but was absent.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also voted no to preserve his ability to try again to advance her. Republican senators said afterward that they hoped she would come up for another vote.
There were 47 votes in favor of advancing the nomination and 50 opposed.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris was able to arrive at the Capitol in time to imperil Shelton’s confirmation. With Democrat Mark Kelly set to replace Arizona Republican Martha McSally after Thanksgiving, Shelton would be unlikely to get approval after this week.
The balance of votes tilted toward Democrats after Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) announced Tuesday morning that he would quarantine after coming in contact with someone who had tested positive for Covid-19. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) is also in quarantine.
Although Shelton seemed poised for confirmation before Grassley’s absence, she almost didn’t make it out of committee. Sens. Pat Toomey (Pa.), Richard Shelby (Ala.) and John Kennedy (La.) all expressed skepticism about her after the confirmation hearing in February, though they ultimately decided to vote for her.
For their part, Democrats blasted Shelton for what they said was a politically convenient shift in her policy views that more closely aligned her with Trump. An advocate of a strong and stable dollar, she had slammed low interest rates for years. But after Trump started considering her for a post at the central bank, she supported his call for slashing interest rates to zero, even before the pandemic.