Senators Question Obama’s Nominee For Fed Chair

Janet Yellen would be first woman to lead the central bank

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Jacquelyn Martin / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Janet Yellen, of California, President Barack Obama's nominee to become Federal Reserve Board chair, is sworn in on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Democrats praised President Barack Obama’s choice to lead the Federal Reserve on Thursday, while Republicans expressed skepticism, but not outright hostility, of her nomination.

During a confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, South Dakota Sen. Tim Johnson, the committee’s Democratic chairman, called Janet Yellen “an extraordinary candidate” to lead the central bank.

“I’m excited to cast my vote to confirm her as the first woman to serve as chair for the Federal Reserve,” Johnson said of Yellen, currently the Fed’s vice chair.

Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo, the ranking Republican on the committee, said Yellen has important questions to answer before she is confirmed, underscoring GOP concerns that she will continue the stimulative monetary policy of current Fed chair Ben Bernanke. Conservatives fear the Fed’s so-called “quantitative easing” program of buying bonds is raising the risk of inflation, even though inflation has stayed at historic lows.

“The Fed has engaged in unprecedented policies,” Crapo said. “It’s essential to know how Dr. Yellen, if confirmed, would handle the process of normalizing our economic policy.”

“Can it just continue indefinitely?” Crapo asked Yellen of quantitative easing at one point. Yellen responded that the Fed’s governing board will continue to examine the pace of the economic recovery regularly, and act accordingly.

In her prepared testimony, Yellen said that continued monetary stimulus is needed.

“I believe that supporting the recovery today is the surest path to returning to a more normal approach to monetary policy,” she said.

Bernanke is stepping down after two 4-year terms.