The U.S. Senate is set to vote this week on President Barack Obama’s nominees to lead the Federal Reserve and the Internal Revenue Service as part of a series of confirmation actions before the year ends.
Before adjourning, perhaps as early as Dec. 19, the chamber will vote on the nominations of Janet Yellen to succeed Ben S. Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve and John Koskinen to be IRS commissioner, Senate Majority Harry Reid said today.
The Nevada Democrat said he wants to avoid further acrimony over a rules change that denied Republicans the ability to block Obama’s nominees and slowed the Senate’s work last week. Senate Republicans forced two consecutive all-night sessions to protest the Nov. 21 rules change.
“This week, the Senate has just as much to achieve as it did last week, and without collaboration we will face another daunting vote schedule,” Reid said. He said he is willing to keep members meeting through Christmas Eve if necessary.
Besides Yellen and Koskinen, Reid filed to end debate on other nominations including Sarah Bloom Raskin to be deputy Treasury secretary, Sarah Sewall to be an undersecretary of state and Mike Connor to be the deputy Interior secretary. The Senate will vote this week on a bipartisan budget deal and a measure authorizing Defense Department operations in fiscal 2014.
The Senate voted 78-16 tonight to confirm Jeh Johnson as Homeland Security secretary.
Democrats, who control the Senate with a 55-45 majority, can now confirm most judges and all executive-branch officials with simple-majority votes, rather than the 60 votes that often were needed before Nov. 21.
Yellen, 67, is poised to become the first woman to head the central bank in its 100-year history. Bernanke’s second term as fed chairman expires Jan. 31.
Obama nominated Yellen, the Fed’s vice chairman, in October after former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers -- viewed as a front-runner for the job -- dropped out amid opposition from Democrats on the Senate Banking Committee.
Republican Senators Mark Kirk of Illinois, Bob Corker of Tennessee and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma -- along with 11 of 12 Democrats on the banking panel -- backed Yellen in the committee’s 14-8 vote on Nov. 21. Joe Manchin of West Virginia was the only Democrat voting in opposition.
Summers, a one-time economic adviser to Obama, withdrew his name from consideration in September. Senate Democrats who said they would oppose him included Ohio’s Sherrod Brown, Oregon’s Jeff Merkley, North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp, Massachusetts’s Elizabeth Warren and Montana’s Jon Tester.
All five are members of the banking committee and were among the signers of an unusual July 24 letter urging Obama to choose Yellen.
Yellen, a main architect of the Fed’s stimulus programs, indicated in her Nov. 14 confirmation hearing that she’ll maintain current policies until a “strong recovery” permits the bank to scale back monetary accommodation. She played down risks that the stimulus is inflating asset prices, saying she doesn’t see “bubble-like conditions” for stocks.
A former University of California at Berkeley professor, Yellen was a Fed governor from 1994 to 1997, chairman of President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers from 1997 to 1999, and San Francisco Fed president from 2004 to 2010. She has been the central bank’s vice chairman since 2010.
Several Yellen opponents have criticized the Federal Open Market Committee’s $40 billion in monthly purchases of mortgage-backed securities, which began in September 2012, arguing that the bond-buying pace has swelled the Fed’s balance sheet to almost $4 trillion.
Koskinen, who would become the first Senate-confirmed IRS leader in more than a year, has said he will rehabilitate the tax agency, which is under multiple congressional investigations for its selective scrutiny of nonprofit groups that back smaller government.
“In every area of the IRS, taxpayers need to be confident that they will be treated fairly, no matter what their background or their affiliations,” he told the Senate Finance Committee, which approved his nomination Dec. 13. “Public trust is the IRS’s most important and valuable asset.”
Koskinen, 74, is a former chairman of Freddie Mac (FMCC) and city administrator of Washington. He also was president of the U.S. Soccer Foundation and chairman of the board of trustees at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, which named its soccer and lacrosse stadium for him.
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