Just one Democrat voted against Janet Yellen to be chairwoman of the Federal Reserve when her nomination came before the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., joined seven Republicans in opposition to Yellen’s nomination. Yellen, who is currently the central bank’s vice chairwoman, still cleared the committee with 14 supporting votes, including three from Republicans.
“I believe that Dr. Yellen is a very intelligent and capable nominee, but her views and beliefs to continue quantitative easing, despite a failure to see any real gains, greatly troubles me,” Manchin said in a statement. Quantitative easing refers to the Fed’s $85 billion-a-month bond-buying program intended to boost the economy. A concern is that continuing the program too long could cause inflation to spike or generate asset bubbles, although a debate over when the appropriate time to taper QE is ongoing.
“While I support her desire to limit risk in the banking sector and help community banks, her views on the Federal Reserve’s direction force me to oppose her nomination,” Manchin said.
Manchin gave no indication at Yellen’s nomination hearing last week that he opposed her. In fact, he noted the committee’s “utmost respect” for the Fed and Yellen herself, and urged her to challenge Congress to be more fiscally responsible.
“We’ve balanced budgets and we’ve had surpluses. I’d like to get back to that again. And I think people like yourself can help us be steered in that direction,” he said at the time. “So be bold. Be bold.”
Nor did he indicate he had any issues with her nomination following a private meeting the two had in advance of her hearing. “I was encouraged by her honest and straightforward approach and look forward to speaking further with her at our Banking Committee hearing to learn more about her plans to better our economy,” he said in a statement released by his office on Nov. 6.
Before the committee’s vote, congressional watchers expected Yellen to pick up all 55 Democratic votes in the Senate when her nomination reaches the floor. Since Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid invoked the so-called “nuclear option,” a rule change that would make it easier for nominees to be confirmed, on Thursday, Yellen is still expected to be approved by the 51-vote majority required under the new Senate rules.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., told reporters after the vote that she was surprised by Manchin’s opposition; Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said she wasn’t.
“Sen. Manchin has been obviously very fiscally conservative and has been deeply concerned about the fiscal policies at the Fed and a sense of growing concern about our debt and deficit, and wanted a path forward to express that concern,” she said.
The three Republicans who voted for Yellen were Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, and Mark Kirk of Illinois.
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