Janet Yellen's nomination to lead the U.S. Federal Reserve advanced in the Senate, positioning her to become the 15th chairman and first woman to head the central bank in its 100-year history.
The Senate's 59-34 vote Friday sets up a final vote for Yellen, 67, on Jan. 6 when lawmakers return from their holiday break. If confirmed, she will replace Ben Bernanke, whose second term as Fed chairman expires Jan. 31.
"We need her expertise at the helm of the Fed as our nation continues to recover from the great recession, completes Wall Street reform rulemakings and continues to enhance the stability of our financial sector," Senate Banking Chairman Tim Johnson, a South Dakota Democrat, said yesterday in a floor speech.
Yellen is the last in an initial batch of nominees considered since new Senate rules were adopted last month that ended the minority Republicans' ability to demand a 60-vote threshold to advance candidates for executive and most judicial- branch posts.
Five Republicans -- Susan Collins of Maine, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Mark Kirk of Illinois and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska -- joined with Democrats in supporting advancing Yellen's nomination. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who according to his office was hospitalized for a time Friday after feeling ill, didn't vote.
The Senate on Friday also confirmed John Koskinen to become Internal Revenue Service commissioner along with two other presidential nominees.
Five members of the Senate Banking Committee were among the signers of an unorthodox July 24 letter by lawmakers urging Obama to choose Yellen.
Yellen's nomination was approved, 14-8, by the Banking Committee on Nov. 21.
Yellen, an architect of the Fed stimulus programs, said in her Nov. 14 confirmation hearing that she'll maintain current policies until a "strong recovery" permits the bank to scale back monetary accommodation. She played down risks that the stimulus is inflating asset prices, saying she didn't see "bubble-like conditions" for stocks.
The Fed on Dec. 18 took the first step toward unwinding the unprecedented stimulus put in place under Bernanke to help the economy recover from the worst recession since the 1930s. The Fed will trim monthly bond purchases to $75 billion from $85 billion starting in January.
A former University of California at Berkeley professor, Yellen was a Fed governor from 1994 to 1997, chairman of President Bill Clinton's Council of Economic Advisers from 1997 to 1999, and San Francisco Fed president from 2004 to 2010. She has been the central bank's vice chairman since 2010.
Several Yellen opponents have criticized the Federal Open Market Committee's $40 billion in monthly purchases of mortgage- backed securities, which began in September 2012, maintaining that the bond-buying pace has swelled the Fed's balance sheet to almost $4 trillion.