Senators Looking for Leverage Find Yellen

Janet Yellen, Obama's choice for next leader of the Federal Reserve.
National Journal
Catherine Hollander
Add to Briefcase
Catherine Hollander
Oct. 31, 2013, 4:06 p.m.

Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham said he would block Janet Yel­len’s nom­in­a­tion as Fed­er­al Re­serve chair­wo­man to get more in­form­a­tion re­leased on the Benghazi at­tack. Sen. Rand Paul said he would hold up the nom­in­a­tion for a vote on his bill.

In an en­vir­on­ment where pre­cious little le­gis­la­tion gets passed, law­makers look­ing for lever­age on is­sues have few places to turn. One of them is hold­ing up nom­in­a­tions — and Yel­len’s is a big one.

“It’s the only lever­age we have,” Gra­ham said.

And so, in a time-honored Cap­it­ol Hill tra­di­tion, Yel­len is be­ing made a pawn in oth­er fights.

For Gra­ham, R-S.C., that means gath­er­ing more in­form­a­tion about the at­tack on the U.S. con­su­late last year. “I’m go­ing to block fu­ture nom­in­a­tions com­ing from the ad­min­is­tra­tion, not be­cause I want to shut any­thing down — be­cause I want to open something up,” he said at a news con­fer­ence.

For Paul, R-Ky., that means a vote on his bill to broaden the abil­ity of the Gov­ern­ment Ac­count­ab­il­ity Of­fice to audit the Fed. Paul has been crit­ic­al of the Fed’s policies but sug­ges­ted he is open to con­sid­er­ing Yel­len’s nom­in­a­tion.

“I look for­ward to an in-depth dis­cus­sion in de­bat­ing her nom­in­a­tion, but my ul­ti­mate de­cision will rest on her po­ten­tial ef­fect­ive­ness in re­form­ing that his­tor­ic­ally ir­re­spons­ible in­sti­tu­tion,” he wrote in a Time ed­it­or­i­al after the White House an­nounced Yel­len’s nom­in­a­tion in Oc­to­ber.

In­deed, as the num­ber of laws passed by Con­gress in each ses­sion has de­clined over dec­ades, the use of holds has ris­en, says G. Calv­in Mack­en­zie, a pro­fess­or of gov­ern­ment at Colby Col­lege. It’s im­possible to know just how many are used today; they aren’t quan­ti­fied any­where. In 2011, the Sen­ate voted to end “secret holds,” which al­lowed law­makers to an­onym­ously block nom­in­ees.

But ac­cord­ing to Sarah Bind­er, a seni­or fel­low in gov­ernance stud­ies at the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion, com­pli­ance with the new rule is im­per­fect. “As the parties move farther and farther apart, it prob­ably in­creases the in­cent­ive to use more ob­struct­ive pro­ced­ures and ex­ploit them,” said Bind­er.

Nom­in­ees are blocked for all kinds of reas­ons. Some­times they over­come them, as Fed­er­al Re­serve Chair­man Ben Bernanke did in 2010 when Sens. Bernie Sanders, Jim De­Mint, Jim Bun­ning, and Dav­id Vit­ter vowed to block his nom­in­a­tion. Some­times they find a way around, as when Pres­id­ent Obama used a re­cess ap­point­ment to in­stall Richard Cordray as the first head of the Con­sumer Fin­an­cial Pro­tec­tion Bur­eau.

Some­times they don’t. In 2011, No­bel laur­eate Peter Dia­mond penned a scath­ing New York Times op-ed, “When a No­bel Prize Isn’t Enough,” to an­nounce his with­draw­al from con­sid­er­a­tion to serve on the Fed’s Board of Gov­ernors after his con­firm­a­tion was blocked three times.

Yel­len is less likely to be chal­lenged on the suit­ab­il­ity of qual­i­fic­a­tions for the job than Dia­mond, who, des­pite his No­bel Prize, had nev­er served at the cent­ral bank. Yel­len has been the Fed’s vice chair­wo­man since 2010 and pre­vi­ously headed one of its re­gion­al branches.

But the Fed’s ac­tions dur­ing and after the fin­an­cial crisis are sure to col­or her con­firm­a­tion hear­ings, and Paul is among the Re­pub­lic­ans who have raised ques­tions about the Fed’s stim­u­lus ac­tions.

The good news for Yel­len? As the Fed’s cur­rent vice chair­wo­man, she’ll be­come the act­ing chair­wo­man on Feb. 1 when Bernanke’s term ex­pires — even if she hasn’t been con­firmed by Con­gress.

What We're Following See More »
CITES CONFLICT OF INTEREST
Lieberman Withdraws from Consideration for FBI Job
1 days ago
THE LATEST
MINIMUM 2 PERCENT GDP
Trump Tells NATO Countries To Pay Up
2 days ago
BREAKING
MANAFORT AND FLYNN
Russians Discussed Influencing Trump Through Aides
2 days ago
THE DETAILS

"American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers." The conversations centered around Paul Manafort, who was campaign chairman at the time, and Michael Flynn, former national security adviser and then a close campaign surrogate. Both men have been tied heavily with Russia and Flynn is currently at the center of the FBI investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Source:
BUT WHITE HOUSE MAY USE AGAINST HIM ANYWAY
Ethics Cops Clear Mueller to Work on Trump Case
3 days ago
THE LATEST

"Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been cleared by U.S. Department of Justice ethics experts to oversee an investigation into possible collusion between then-candidate Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign and Russia." Some had speculated that the White House would use "an ethics rule limiting government attorneys from investigating people their former law firm represented" to trip up Mueller's appointment. Jared Kushner is a client of Mueller's firm, WilmerHale. "Although Mueller has now been cleared by the Justice Department, the White House may still use his former law firm's connection to Manafort and Kushner to undermine the findings of his investigation, according to two sources close to the White House."

Source:
BUSINESSES CAN’T PLEAD FIFTH
Senate Intel to Subpoena Two of Flynn’s Businesses
3 days ago
THE LATEST

Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and ranking member Mark Warner (D-VA) will subpoena two businesses owned by former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Burr said, "We would like to hear from General Flynn. We'd like to see his documents. We'd like him to tell his story because he publicly said he had a story to tell."

×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login