Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he hopes the chamber will confirm Stanley Fischer and two other Federal Reserve nominees before the board is reduced to just three members in less than a month.
Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said in an interview at the Capitol today he was aware the board might be left with fewer than half its seven seats filled after Governor Jeremy Stein departs May 28, and that Senate leadership would work to get the nominations through by then.
The Senate Banking Committee yesterday approved Fischer’s nomination in a voice vote. The panel also backed Lael Brainard and Jerome Powell for the Fed board.
“Of course it is,” Reid replied when asked if the trio’s confirmation by June was possible. He said Republicans would probably agree to allow votes on all three before then.
“It would seem to me that they should agree to that,” he said, adding that Powell is a Republican.
Fischer, 70, was nominated to be the Fed’s vice chairman, the job Janet Yellen held for three years before she succeeded Chairman Ben S. Bernanke in February.
Fischer, who has served as head of the Bank of Israel and the No. 2 official at the International Monetary Fund, may help Yellen revamp the Fed’s communications strategy for signaling the future path of the main interest rate, which has been held near zero since December 2008.
Fed policy makers today made their fourth-straight reduction in the monthly pace of asset purchases, to $45 billion, and said the economy is pulling out of a stall caused in part by severe winter weather.
Powell was nominated for a second term after joining the central bank two years ago, and Brainard is a former U.S. Treasury undersecretary for international affairs who would fill an empty board seat.
Stein will return to teaching economics at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts after two years as a governor. His departure opens a vacancy for a term ending in 2018. Governor terms last 14 years.
Republicans, who in the past have blocked or opposed nominations by President Barack Obama, a Democrat, haven’t signaled that they will seek to derail the Fed nominations. Senator Bob Corker said to Yellen during her Feb. 27 testimony to the banking panel that he’ll support Fischer.
“I’m impressed,” said Corker, a Tennessee Republican. Fischer is a “He’s a very good complement to your background. So I’m glad that he’s being put forth and I look forward to him being confirmed.”
Louisiana Republican David Vitter voiced his opposition to all three Fed nominees for the record yesterday in the Banking Committee vote. No other Senators said they were opposed.
Fischer has spent much of the past quarter century near the top of global finance and could help monitor the impact overseas from changes in Fed policy. In the 1990s, he helped arrange bailouts for Mexico and Brazil while serving at the IMF. He left the fund in 2001 and joined Citigroup Inc. as a vice chairman.
Brainard, 52, was the Treasury’s top international official before stepping down in November. She also served as an economic adviser to President Bill Clinton, a Democrat.
Powell, 61, worked at the Treasury under Republican President George H.W. Bush as an undersecretary responsible for domestic finance from 1990 until 1993.
Yellen succeeded Bernanke in February, and Stein has resigned effective May 28. Two other governors have departed in the past eight months.