It's the first time Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell delivered his semi-annual economic update to a House financial services committee now controlled by Democrats... And the exchange Wednesday took on a more political tone right from Chairwoman Maxine Waters' first question.
SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH): REP.
MAXINE WATERS, CHAIRWOMAN, HOUSE FINANCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE SAYING: "President Trump's policies are damaging our economy or challenging growth.
This is why you've had to pause rate hikes." Not surprisingly, Republican members wanted something else from Powell- validation.
SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) REP.
DUFFY, REPUBLICAN-WISCONSIN SAYING: "So more people are working - everyone's working more, right?
SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN JEROME POWELL SAYING: "Yes, the labor market is very healthy." SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) REP.
DUFFY, (REPUBLICAN) WISCONSIN SAYING: "I find it very interesting that some of my colleagues across the aisle bash the tax cuts, they bash the president and the economic policies that have come from this administration and a Republican congress, but the net end result is that more people work." With both sides of the aisle trying to use Powell to score political points, that left little room for the Fed chief to provide insight on monetary policy… or expand on his upbeat outlook.
SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN JEROME POWELL SAYING: "At our January meeting, our colleagues generally expected economic activity to expand at a solid pace albeit slower than in 2018 and the job market to remain strong." But that strength, Powell told House lawmakers Wednesday, could be in jeopardy due to a slowdown in trading partners Europe and China.
That's why he said he hit the pause button on any more rate moves.
A topic Powell was clearly more comfortable talking about as he tried to avoid falling into political landmines set by newly empowered House Democrats or committee Republicans.