Manchin the Only Democrat to Oppose Yellen in Banking Committee Vote

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) is at the fulcrum of the national energy debate.
National Journal
Catherine Hollander
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Catherine Hollander
Nov. 21, 2013, 7:17 a.m.

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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