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Four Senate Republicans Back Yellen for U.S. Fed Chairman

Fed Chairman-Nominee Janet Yellen
Janet Yellen, vice chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve and U.S. President Barack Obama's nominee as chairman of the Federal Reserve, speaks during a Senate Banking Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 14, 2013. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg

Four Senate Republicans say they’re inclined to support Janet Yellen to be chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, leaving her nomination one vote shy of the 60 she needs to be confirmed by the full Senate.

Republicans Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Orrin Hatch of Utah said today in interviews at the Capitol that they’d probably support Yellen when the nomination comes to the Senate floor, which may occur the week of Dec. 9.

“I’m inclined to,” Coburn said when asked if he’d back her nomination. “She’s obviously qualified. I don’t agree with a lot of her philosophy, but she’s qualified.”

Coburn is a member of the Banking Committee, which will vote Nov. 21 on Yellen’s nomination. Democrats have a two-seat edge of that panel, so could recommend her confirmation even without the Republican support.

Democrats, who control 55 seats in the Senate, are united behind Yellen. She would need the support of at least five Republicans to overcome opponents’ attempts to thwart her confirmation.

“She seems to be a qualified lady,” Graham said of Yellen, 67. He said he’s “inclined to support her” when asked about his position on her nomination.

‘Well Qualified’

Collins said she was “certainly inclined to support” Yellen, adding, “I believe that she’s well qualified for the position.”

Even with the backing of Coburn, Collins, Graham, Hatch and all 55 Democrats, Yellen would need the vote of one more Republican on the Senate floor to ensure that opponents couldn’t block her nomination.

Kentucky’s Rand Paul, Alabama’s Richard Shelby, Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey, North Dakota’s John Hoeven and Kansas’s Pat Roberts are among Republicans who have said they probably will vote against her confirmation.

At least three Republican senators -- Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Mike Johanns of Nebraska, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska -- said today that they hadn’t made up their minds about Yellen and didn’t rule out supporting her.

Yellen faces opposition from some Republicans who disapprove of the Fed’s recent monetary policy.

Republican Opposition

Republicans have opposed the bond-buying pace that has swelled the Fed’s balance sheet to almost $4 trillion. The Federal Open Market Committee began $40 billion in monthly purchases of mortgage-backed securities in September 2012 and announced the addition of $45 billion in Treasury securities to that pace in December.

Fed officials have said their current pace of purchases will continue until the labor market improves “substantially.”

“I haven’t made a final decision,” Johanns, who’s a member of the Banking Committee, said in an interview. “But today I’m still of a mind that I’m open to her.”

Johanns predicted that Yellen probably would get the backing of at least five Republicans on the Senate floor to assure her confirmation.

“Yeah, I think that’s doable,” he said.

Senator Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican and member of the banking panel, said he would announce his position tomorrow. He said he met with Yellen yesterday and discussed monetary policy.

‘Very Transparent’

“She obviously has a lot of attributes. She’s certainly likable and has been very transparent,” Corker said. “At the same time, though, there is a view of the world that is somewhat different than mine, and I have to take that into account.”

Paul of Kentucky said he will oppose Yellen’s nomination unless he receives consideration of his measure requiring a public audit of the Federal Reserve.

In two hours of testimony before the banking panel last week, Yellen indicated she’ll press on with the Federal Reserve’s unprecedented monetary stimulus until she sees a robust recovery. Yellen signaled her determination to use bond buying to strengthen the economy and lower the 7.3 percent U.S. unemployment rate.

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