Senator Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, predicted Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Janet Yellen will win U.S. Senate confirmation to succeed Ben S. Bernanke as central bank chairman.
Asked if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has the votes to get Yellen confirmed, Paul said, “in all likelihood, yes.” He spoke today in an interview for Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt” airing this weekend.
Yellen today began meeting with senators in preparation for a Nov. 14 nomination hearing by the Senate Banking Committee. She needs to win the panel’s approval before her nomination advances to the Senate for a confirmation vote. Bernanke’s term expires on Jan. 31.
“We had a nice meeting, a courteous meeting,” Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, the No. 2 Republican on the banking panel, said today after talking to Yellen, 67. He said he asked “a lot of questions about the role of the Fed,” and didn’t commit to supporting her nomination.
Paul, 50, has pledged to hold up the nomination until securing a vote on legislation requiring a public audit of the central bank, including decision-making on monetary policy.
“I want to draw attention to the fact that audit the Fed has been held hostage by Senator Reid for three years,” Paul said.
“Apparently Janet Yellen’s been in favor of transparency at the Fed,” he said. “That’s all we’re asking for is an open audit.”
Paul also addressed the struggle within the Republican Party, where an emboldened Tea Party is seeking to oust senators who voted to reopen the government during a partial shutdown this month.
At least seven Republican senators are facing primary challengers in the 2014 midterm elections, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Thad Cochran of Mississippi and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, all of whom voted to end the 16-day closing.
Asked if the challenges would damage the Republican Party, Paul said “I don’t think it hurts.”
“I’m a big believer in the free market,” he said. “That means competition’s good. It makes us all better through competition.”
While he’s not backing any of the challengers against incumbents, Paul said, the competition “makes us hone our message better, makes us present it better.”
Paul said his legislation to audit the Fed probably wouldn’t win the support of 60 senators, the number of votes needed to advance the measure to the White House. A companion bill passed the House of Representatives last year with a vote of 327-98. The effort was a cause of his father, Ron Paul, a Republican and former U.S. representative from Texas.
Bernanke has repeatedly said the legislation would expose Fed policy making to political pressure and jeopardize the central bank’s independence.
“If they’re not doing anything untoward, there should be no reason why we couldn’t look at it,” Paul said.
The audit could also investigate whether it’s too easy for officials to move between Fed jobs and Wall Street, he said.
“It’s an issue that 70 percent of the American people don’t think it’s right for a guy to come out of the Treasury and make $160 million on Wall Street the very next year and then go back into Treasury the next year,” Paul said.
“This revolving door, we should at least know what the policy is and whether anybody’s getting rich off of that policy,” he said.