Senate clears way to fill Fed chair and board seats

The US Federal Reserve's campaign to encourage economic growth was bolstered on Thursday as Janet Yellen moved to the verge of confirmation as the next head of the Fed, and a change in Senate procedures made it easier to fill three other vacancies on the Fed's board.

The US Federal Reserve's campaign to encourage economic growth was bolstered on Thursday as Janet Yellen moved to the verge of confirmation as the next head of the Fed, and a change in Senate procedures made it easier to fill three other vacancies on the Fed's board.

The Senate banking committee sent Ms Yellen's nomination to the full Senate on Thursday by a vote of 14 to eight. This margin reflected the depth of partisan divisions over the central bank's expansive five-year-old campaign to increase the pace of economic growth.

Still, Ms Yellen's confirmation - and the distinction of becoming the first woman to lead the Fed - is assured after the Senate changed its rules a few hours later to require only 51 votes to confirm most presidential nominees, meaning Ms Yellen does not need Republican support.

The full Senate is expected to vote after Thanksgiving on November 28.

The rules change will also make it easier for the White House to fill three other seats on the Fed's seven-member board of governors with nominees likely to share Ms Yellen's commitment to pressing ahead with the Fed's stimulus campaign.

Ms Yellen, 67, has been the Fed's vice-chairwoman since 2010 and has worked closely with the Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke, to design the central bank's efforts to revive the economy and reduce unemployment, and to build support for them.

Fed officials are debating how much longer to continue the most controversial portion of the stimulus program, the monthly purchase of $US85 billion ($92 billion) in Treasury and mortgage-backed securities to a pile of holdings that has ballooned to more than $US3.9 trillion since the start of the financial crisis.

Ms Yellen has continued to call privately for the Fed to press ahead with the purchases.

But there is now little doubt she will replace Mr Bernanke on February 1 to become just the fourth person to lead the Fed in 35 years.

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