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

Five Senate Republicans say they’re inclined to support Janet Yellen to be chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, which should give her the 60 votes she needs to be confirmed.

Republicans Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Orrin Hatch of Utah said in interviews at the Capitol that they would probably support Yellen when the nomination comes to the Senate floor, which may occur the week of Dec. 9. Republican Bob Corker of Tennessee announced today that he also would support her. The Banking Committee plans to vote tomorrow on advancing Yellen.

“In the end, I do believe she has the qualifications necessary to be the Fed chairman and plan to support her nomination,” Corker said in a news release.

Corker’s support would give Yellen the 60 votes needed to overcome a procedural obstacle and win confirmation. Democrats, who control 55 seats in the Senate, are united behind Yellen. She needs the support of at least five Republicans to overcome opponents’ attempts to thwart her confirmation.

“I’m inclined to,” Coburn said yesterday when asked if he would 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 panel, on which Democrats have a two-seat edge and therefore could recommend her confirmation even without Republican support.

‘Qualified Lady’

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

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

Corker, a member of the banking panel, met with Yellen Nov. 18. He said today that she made a commitment to moderate Fed purchases of mortgage bonds as soon as she believes “the data supports that action and shows that the current status cannot continue.”

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

Corker said he is concerned that Yellen lacks the experience in systemic financial regulation and hopes she works to overcome “that deficit.”

‘Easy-Money Policies’

Nebraska Senator Mike Johanns, a Republican member of the banking panel, announced today that he would oppose Yellen. He said he didn’t find her lacking in qualifications, yet he was concerned that the Fed’s “policies of indefinite stimulus will have negative long-term economic consequences.”

“I cannot support Ms. Yellen’s nomination because, given many opportunities, she never did distance herself from these easy-money policies,” Johanns said. “The Fed has gone too far in trying to stimulate the economy and these sweeteners can’t go on forever. While the market has enjoyed this sugar high, it is unsustainable.”

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

Ayotte, Murkowski

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

Yellen faces opposition from some Republicans who, like Johanns, disapprove of the Fed’s recent monetary policy. Fed officials have said their current pace of bond purchases will continue until the labor market improves substantially.

In a letter to Republican Senator David Vitter of Louisiana, Yellen defended the central bank’s bond purchases, saying they boosted economic growth and provided benefits that exceed the risks.

“By putting downward pressure on longer-term interest rates and helping to make financial conditions more accommodative, the Federal Reserve’s asset purchases have supported a stronger economic recovery, improved labor-market conditions and helped keep inflation closer to its 2 percent objective,” she said in a Nov. 18 response to questions from Vitter, a member of the banking panel who has said he’ll vote against the nomination.

Paul Opposition

Paul 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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