- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 29, 2010

WASHINGTON (AP) — Putting a bigger stamp on the Federal Reserve, President Obama on Thursday chose Janet Yellen as vice chairwoman of the central bank and filled two other vacancies on the board, which has enormous power over Americans’ pocketbooks.

The nominations are subject to Senate approval. If the Senate confirms all three nominees, Mr. Obama will have appointed five of the seven members of the Federal Reserve Board.

His moves come as the Fed, whose decisions influence economic activity, employment and inflation, is facing political and economic challenges.

The Fed is steering the economy out of the worst recession since the 1930s, and legislation to overhaul the financial system would eliminate some of the Fed’s authority while giving it new responsibilities. Some lawmakers think the Fed overstepped its authority by bailing out some big financial firms during the 2008 financial crisis.

Fed interest rate decisions affect the rates consumers pay on home mortgages and other consumer and business loans. On Wednesday, the Fed ended a two-day meeting by sticking to its pledge to hold rates at historic lows for an “extended period” to help energize the recovery.

Ms. Yellen is president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. As vice chair, the second-highest ranking Fed official, her duties would include helping build support for policy positions staked out by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, who has begun a second term.

Mr. Obama also nominated Sarah Raskin and Peter Diamond to the Fed board. Ms. Raskin is the Maryland commissioner of financial regulation. Mr. Diamond is an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“The depth of experience these individuals bring in economic and monetary policy, financial regulation, and consumer protection will make them tremendous assets at the Fed,” the president said in a statement. “I am grateful they have chosen to dedicate their talents to serving the American people.”

Ms. Yellen said she is honored to be nominated by Mr. Obama. If confirmed, Ms. Yellen said she looks forward to working with Mr. Bernanke and other Fed officials to craft policies that “foster economic prosperity and ensure a stable financial system.”

She added that she will work to “ensure that policy promotes job creation and keeps inflation in check.”

Ms. Yellen was a top adviser to President Bill Clinton and is considered a dove on monetary policy. That means she would be expected to be more concerned about high unemployment, currently holding at 9.7 percent nationally, than about rising inflation.

She would succeed Donald Kohn, who plans to depart at the end of June. Mr. Kohn has been a member of the Fed board since 2002.

Ms. Yellen and Mr. Diamond, who is an authority on Social Security, pensions and taxation, are Ph.D. economists. With Mr. Kohn’s departure, the Fed would have just one professional economist, Mr. Bernanke. Of its other current members, Daniel Tarullo was a Georgetown University law professor, Kevin Warsh brought Wall Street experience and Elizabeth Duke was a banker. Mr. Warsh and Ms. Duke were nominated by President George W. Bush.

Ms. Raskin, who served as counsel to the Senate Banking Committee, would expand the Fed’s expertise over financial regulation. That would include consumer issues, which are important to Mr. Obama and Congress as they seek to impose tighter oversight on the financial industry.

AP Economics Writer Jeannine Aversa contributed to this report.

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