Obama Announces Janet Yellen as Nominee to Be Next Fed Chair

If confirmed, Yellen would become first woman to head U.S. central bank; Obama praises outgoing chair Ben Bernanke as 'voice of wisdom.'

U.S. President Barack Obama nominated Janet Yellen to be the next chair of the Federal Reserve Board on Wednesday.

Yellen, said Obama, is a proven leader, who knows how to build consensus in managing the Fed's dual mandate of controlling inflation and increasing employment.

U.S. Federal Reserve Vice Chair Yellen said she would do her utmost to promote maximum employment, stable prices, and a strong and stable financial system if she is confirmed by the U.S. Senate to run the central bank.

Yellen said the United States has made progress in recovering from the financial crisis, but has further to go. "Too many Americans still can't find a job and worry how they'll pay their bills and provide for their families. The Federal Reserve can help if it does its job effectively," Yellen said at the White House.

Upon announcing the nomination, Obama also paid tribute to current chair Ben Bernanke, whose term on the board ends in January. Obama urged the Senate to confirm Yellen as soon as possible.

Calling Bernanke a voice of wisdom during a time of market volatility, Obama thanked him for helping to repair the U.S. economy after being hit by the worst recession since the Great Depression.

If confirmed, Yellen will be the first woman to lead the institution in its 100-year history.

Yellen has been a forceful advocate of aggressive action to drive down unemployment and would provide continuity with the policies the Fed has established under Chairman Ben Bernanke.

The former professor has a long history in the top ranks of economic policymaking, including her service over the past three years as the Fed's No. 2 official. If confirmed, she would succeed Bernanke when his second four-year term expires on Jan. 31.

Yellen, 67, would have to oversee the tricky process of reversing the extraordinary stimulus the U.S. central bank put in place to shore up the world's largest economy, which eclipses Japan and China put together.

If she wins the Senate's backing, as expected, she would join the Fed's honor roll along with such household names as Paul Volcker and Alan Greenspan, predecessors as head of an institution that can influence the course of the world economy.

Obama turned to Yellen after his former economic adviser Lawrence Summers withdrew from consideration amid fierce opposition from within Obama's own Democratic Party, which raised questions about his chances of being confirmed in Congress.

In contrast, Yellen has enjoyed strong support from Democrats. In an unusual move, 20 Senate Democrats signed a letter pressing Obama to turn to the former professor from the University of California at Berkeley.

Her backing on the Republican side of the aisle is much softer. Many Republicans worry the Fed's policy of holding overnight interest rates at zero and the massive bond purchases it has pursued to drive other borrowing costs lower threaten to create asset bubbles and spark an unwanted pickup in inflation.

Still, Yellen is expected to garner enough support to secure the 60 votes needed to overcome any procedural hurdles in the 100-seat Senate. Democrats control the chamber 54-46.

A respected economist whose research has taken her deep into theories of monetary policy, Yellen has earned a reputation as one of the Fed officials most worried about unemployment and least worried about inflation.

Reuters