The Senate has confirmed Janet Yellen as chairman of the Federal Reserve by a vote of 56 to 26, succeeding Ben Bernanke, whose term ends on Jan. 31.
She will be the first woman to be in charge of the Fed. Yellen, 67, has been vice-chair of the Federal Reserve and was previously president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers during the Clinton administration, and a professor at the University of California Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.
President Obama praised Yellen following Monday’s confirmation. “With the bipartisan confirmation of Janet Yellen as the next chair of the Federal Reserve, the American people will have a fierce champion who understands that the ultimate goal of economic and financial policymaking is to improve the lives, jobs and standard of living of American workers and their families,” Obama said in a statement. “As one of our nation’s most respected economists and a leading voice at the Fed for more than a decade—and vice chair for the past three years—Janet helped pull our economy out of recession and put us on the path of steady growth. Janet is committed to the Fed’s dual mandate of keeping inflation in check while also addressing our most important economic challenge by reducing unemployment and creating jobs. And she understands that fostering a stable financial system will help the overall economy and protect consumers. I am confident that Janet will stand up for American workers, protect consumers, foster the stability of our financial system, and help keep our economy growing for years to come.”
Yellen will face challenges as Fed chairman as the central bank tries to steer the economy through a fragile recovery and begins to taper off its quantitative easing monetary policy.
Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew also hailed Yellen on the occasion of her confirmation. “I am pleased the Senate took bipartisan action today to confirm Janet Yellen as the next chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System,” he said. “With many years of experience in economics and at the Federal Reserve, Janet is a proven leader who will assume the vast responsibilities of this position with a steady hand. Janet is not only enormously qualified to take on this role, she is also widely respected for her keen mind, sound judgment and independence. At the Federal Reserve, she has been a vital and often prescient voice. She has also demonstrated a deep understanding of the damage a difficult economy can have on working families. And she has made clear her commitment to completing the ongoing work of financial reform and maintaining a safe and stable financial system.
“I know Janet will work closely to ensure a smooth transition from Chairman Ben Bernanke, who will forever be remembered for taking bold and creative action to avert a second Great Depression,” Lew added. “Ben moved swiftly in the face of a historic crisis to stabilize financial markets, bolster our financial institutions and ease credit conditions, and I want to thank him for his service and tireless work on behalf of our country.”
The Financial Services Roundtable, a trade group representing 100 of the largest integrated financial services companies and banks, issued a cautious statement on her confirmation.
“Janet Yellen brings a wealth of experience to the job and will guide the Federal Reserve at a critical time for our economy,” Financial Services Roundtable CEO Tim Pawlenty said. “We look forward to working with her on issues of importance to our industry.”
One of the senators voting against Yellen’s confirmation was Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the former chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. “Over the past five years the Federal Reserve has pursued unconventional and unprecedented monetary policy,” said Grassley. “As vice chair of the Fed, Janet Yellen has been a strong proponent of these policies. As chair, she is likely to continue these same easy money policies with the same, if not more, vigor than her predecessor. I have deep concerns about the long-term effects of pursuing these policies. Historical evidence suggests that failing to rein in easy money policies on a timely basis risks fueling an economic bubble or even hyperinflation.”