- - Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Senate committee has approved President Obama’s two nominations to fill vacancies on the Federal Reserve’s board. But prospects for a quick confirmation in the full Senate are uncertain.

The Senate Banking Committee approved by voice vote the nominations of Jeremy Stein, a Harvard economics professor, and Jerome Powell, an investment banker who served in the George H.W. Bush administration.

Mr. Obama nominated Mr. Stein, a Democrat, and Mr. Powell, a Republican, in hopes that pairing nominees from both parties could overcome Republican objections. The Fed board hasn’t operated with a full seven members since 2006.

But Sen. David Vitter, Louisiana Republican, has expressed public opposition, which at least means the Senate won’t vote before its two-week break starts this weekend. Mr. Vitter has criticized efforts by the Fed and Chairman Ben S. Bernanke for keeping interest rates at record lows to encourage borrowing, arguing that the Fed’s actions have raised the risk of inflation and speculative economic bubbles.

“I refuse to provide Chairman Bernanke with two more rubber stamps who approve of the Fed’s activist policies,” he said in a statement.

HOMELAND SECURITY

Obama administration suspends deportations

The Obama administration is temporarily suspending immigration court dockets in four cities in a move Republicans are calling a “backdoor amnesty.”

The dockets in Detroit, New Orleans, Orlando, Fla., and Seattle will be suspended while authorities review thousands of cases as part of a plan to indefinitely delay deportation proceedings for many noncriminal illegal immigrants, the Department of Homeland Security said Thursday.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency previously reviewed 11,682 cases in Baltimore and Denver. Officials recommended suspending more than 1,600 cases in those two cities.

The reviews are part of an Obama administration pledge to focus deportation resources on criminal immigrants and those who pose a national security or public safety threat.

TREASURY

Government loses about $50M on small bank stocks

The government has lost roughly $50 million on its sale of stock in six small banks bailed out in the 2008 financial crisis. But the Treasury Department says the three-year investment was profitable after counting dividends and investments.

The department said Thursday it received $362 million from the first public auction of its preferred stock in small banks. Treasury invested $410.8 million in the six banks.

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