WASHINGTON — Janet Yellen's bid to become the first woman to head the Federal Reserve moved one step closer to reality Wednesday when an influential Republican senator said he'd vote to confirm her.
Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker is a member of the Senate Banking Committee and a leading Republican voice on financial regulation. Although he expressed reservations, Corker said in a statement that he'll vote to confirm Yellen. Democrats needed only five Republicans to block procedural hurdles and move the nomination to a vote, and now that number is four.
As is often the case in Washington, Corker's support was qualified. It came, he said, after frank discussions with Yellen, who has been the Fed's vice chairman since 2010 and was instrumental in the central bank's unconventional support for the economy through controversial bond buying to the tune of $85 billion a month since last December.
"She will approach decisions with a more rules-based methodology. She understands that monetary policy is a blunt object, that distortions are occurring, and that the affluent disproportionately benefit from easy money policies," Corker said in a statement of support that sounded quite the opposite. "During our discussions, she made a commitment to moderate purchases as soon as she believes the data supports that action and shows that the current status cannot continue. She believes, to a certain extent, that the Fed may have become a prisoner of its own policies, although as a mitigating factor to this dynamic, we both seem to agree that the increase in interest rates beginning this past summer has helped to remove some risk from the financial system."
Got that? Corker said he supports Yellen and let on that she feels trapped by a program that has helped keep interest rates low on big purchases such as homes and cars that have helped the economy crawl back from the worst financial crisis of modern times.
Corker also noted he preferred someone with more modest views on monetary policy and with greater experience in regulation instead of academia. But despite all those shortcomings, he'll still vote for her.
"In the end, I do believe she has the qualifications necessary to be the Fed chairman and plan to support her nomination,” the Tennessee senator said.