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
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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