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Clayton confirmed as Trump's SEC chief

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Wall Street lawyer Jay Clayton was approved on a mostly partisan vote. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

President Trump's nominee to head the Securities and Exchange Commission won Senate confirmation Tuesday afternoon, giving the president his top markets regulator.

Jay Clayton, a former corporate lawyer, cleared the Senate on a 61-37 vote.

Clayton will be responsible for overseeing U.S. securities markets, setting rules for the financial industry, and continuing to implement the post-crisis financial rules or whatever alternatives the Trump administration might enact.

Clayton comes to the SEC from the law firm Sullivan & Cromwell in New York, where he represented many of the biggest Wall Street firms during the financial crisis. With that background, he said during confirmation hearings, he aims to improve or ease rules to increase the ability of companies to go public and for more people to get access to those stocks.

His nomination became contentious partly because Democrats were skeptical about another Wall Street lawyer replacing former SEC Chairwoman Mary Jo White, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama after working at the firm Debevoise & Plimpton. She returned to the firm this year. During hearings, Democrats raised the concern that, like White, Clayton would have to recuse himself from too many enforcement cases because of his ties to so many banks.

"He will be sitting on the sidelines of potential enforcement actions against some of the biggest Wall Street banks — Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, Royal Bank of Canada, and UBS," said Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the top Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, speaking on the Senate floor. "That doesn't sound like someone who will be fighting for the American people or working to protect America's financial markets."

As with other nominees, Clayton saw Democratic resistance because of more general complaints about Trump and the possibility that the president has unresolved conflicts of interest involving the Trump Organization's business.

Now, Clayton will be responsible for an SEC that will remain understaffed for the near future. Only two other commissioners of the five-member commission are in place. Trump has not submitted nominations for the other two positions.