Yellen confirmed by U.S. Senate to become 15th Fed chairman

Janet Yellen won U.S. Senate confirmation to become the 15th chairman of the Federal Reserve and the first woman to head the central bank in its 100-year history.

Yellen, 67, was confirmed today by a 56-26 vote, with 11 Republicans supporting her. She’ll replace Ben S. Bernanke, whose second term as chairman expires Jan. 31, as the Fed trims monthly bond purchases in a first step toward lessening the unprecedented stimulus.

“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,” President Barack Obama said in a statement.

Currently Fed vice chairman, Yellen has backed Bernanke’s efforts to steer the economy through its most severe crisis since the 1930s with record-low interest rates and three rounds of bond buying that have swelled Fed assets to $4.02 trillion. She pledged in a Nov. 14 confirmation hearing to press on with accommodation until achieving a “strong recovery.”

“Americans should feel reassured that we will have her at the helm of the Fed as our nation continues to recover from the Great Recession,” Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson, a South Dakota Democrat, said in a statement today. “Dr. Yellen’s leadership will also be critical as the Fed completes Wall Street reform rulemakings and continues to enhance the stability of our financial sector.”

Bubble Concerns

Yellen’s Senate opponents, including Charles Grassley of Iowa, cited her support for Bernanke’s policies, which they say may create asset-price bubbles or lead to an inflationary surge even with prices rising below the Fed’s 2 percent target. Consumer prices rose 0.9 percent in November from a year earlier, according to an inflation measure watched by the Fed.

Grassley, a Republican, said he opposed Yellen’s confirmation because he thinks she would continue Bernanke’s “misguided” policies, adding that he was skeptical the Fed would unwind its stimulus efforts under her watch.

“The stock market has become addicted to the Fed’s easy- money policies,” Grassley said on the Senate floor today, adding that “the benefit to Main Street has been questionable at best.”

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