Senate confirms Janet Yellen as next Fed chair

Janet Yellen was confirmed by the Senate become the next Fed chair, replacing Ben Bernanke. She will assume the position on Feb. 1. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

Updated at 6:40 p.m.

The Senate confirmed Janet Yellen to lead the Federal Reserve Monday by a vote of 56 to 26, capping off a tug-of-war between Democrats and Republicans over President Obama’s nominees that dominated the Senate in its final weeks of 2013.

Yellen, who was nominated by President Obama in October, is the first woman to lead the institution in its 100-year history. She is currently a vice chair of the Fed, a position she has held since 2010, and is known as a close ally of current chairman Ben Bernanke, whose term expires at the end of January. She will take over on Feb. 1.

Though she was not an especially controversial pick for the job, Yellen’s nomination was caught up in the midst of a fight between Senate Democrats and Republicans. When Republicans began blocking many of the president’s nominees to executive and judicial branch positions, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., instituted a rules change that prevents the minority party from filibustering nominees for those jobs.

Even with the change, Yellen’s nomination was still delayed by Republicans who were angry about Reid’s move. It was supposed to occur before Congress recessed for the holidays, but was ultimately scheduled for the day of the Senate’s return. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., was also delaying the confirmation in protest of his inability to get Reid to schedule a vote on a bill to audit the Fed.

Before lawmakers left town, however, she cleared a key procedural vote by a margin of 59 to 34, signaling she would likely be confirmed. Her confirmation wasn’t without opposition, though: before the vote, Heritage Action, an outside conservative group, announced it was opposing her nomination due to the Fed’s monetary policies and would include it on a list of votes used to score lawmakers.

"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," said President Obama in a statement.

The biggest challenge ahead for Yellen will be overseeing the so-called “taper” of monetary support for the economy it has been providing since 2008. Fed’s rate-setting panel announced last month that it will cut its monthly purchases of mortgages and U.S. Treasury securities back to $75 billion a month, a $10 billion decrease.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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