U.S. Senate sets votes on Fischer, two other Fed nominees

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 10, 2014 12:49 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate will hold procedural votes on Tuesday on three Federal Reserve nominees, including Stanley Fischer to be vice chairman, with an aim to hold final votes later in the week.

The Senate confirmed Fischer, the former head of the Bank of Israel, for a seat on the Fed's board on May 21 but it has yet to act on his nomination to be the No. 2. official. It will also consider the nomination of former U.S. Treasury official Lael Brainard for a board seat and the renomination of Fed Governor Jerome Powell for a fresh board term.

While Powell and Fischer are already at the Fed, Brainard's confirmation would put her in place for the U.S. central bank's next policy-setting session on June 17-18.

Tuesday's votes to limit debate on the nominations are set to begin at 2:30 p.m. If the nominees garner a simple majority in the 100-seat chamber, a clock will start ticking toward final confirming votes, which would be slated to begin at 1:45 p.m. on Thursday.

Brainard's expected arrival would be another boost to the central bank's depleted ranks as policymakers enter uncharted territory, mapping out plans to exit from their extraordinary stimulus package.

Even if the nominees are confirmed, President Barack Obama would still have two empty seats to fill on the normally seven-member Fed board.

The central bank is currently winding down its massive bond-buying stimulus program, which it plans to shutter before year-end, and it is expected to lift benchmark overnight interest rates from zero sometime next year. Its balance sheet has ballooned from around $1 trillion before the crisis to around $4.3 trillion.

Fischer, who is a widely respected economist with extensive policymaking experience, is expected to play an influential role in helping to shape U.S. monetary policy.

At the Bank of Israel, he was credited with ably steering Israel's economy through the financial crisis. He also served as an executive at Citigroup and as the No. 2 official at the International Monetary Fund, where he helped lead the effort to combat Asia's financial crisis in the 1990s.

During a Senate hearing in March, Fischer broadly endorsed the Fed's current direction, and indicated he felt there was still ample room - as Fed Chair Janet Yellen has suggested - to maintain loose monetary policy to boost employment.

Brainard, who served as a top financial diplomat at the Treasury until late last year, was involved in bank regulation talks with European officials during the height of the euro zone financial crisis. She also worked at the White House during the Clinton administration.

(Reporting by Michael Flaherty and Rick Cowan; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Andrea Ricci)