WASHINGTON — Janet Yellen took a giant step Thursday toward becoming the first woman to lead the Federal Reserve Board when the Senate Banking Committee sent her nomination to the full Senate with a 14-8 vote.
The committee’s vote showed how the Federal Reserve’s policies to keep money flowing to the ailing economy has made the Fed a part of the ongoing partisan wars in Washington. It broke largely along party lines, with three Republican senators — Bob Corker of Tennessee, Mark Kirk of Illinois and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma — voting in favor of her nomination. One Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, voted against her.
Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., voted against Yellen, saying a day before the vote that he was concerned that the Fed’s “policies of indefinite stimulus will have negative long-term economic consequences.”
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a conservative Democrat from North Dakota who supported Yellen’s nomination, said there is a “legitimate debate about the easy money policy of the Fed,” and the “no” votes reflected protests against “quantitative easing,” the Fed’s policy of buying Treasury bonds to pump the economy with cash.
But, Heitkamp said, “Everyone in there expects her to be confirmed.”
Yellen’s path to confirmation, expected in December, also became easier Thursday when the full Senate voted to change its rules for approving all presidential nominees other than Supreme Court selections. Now a simple majority will be required, instead of 60 votes. Democrats control 55 votes in the chamber.