In surprise move, Corker backs Yellen for Fed

Janet Yellen’s bid to become the first female head of the Federal Reserve got a big boost Wednesday as Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerOn The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Senators hammers Ross on Trump tariffs | EU levies tariffs on US goods | Senate rejects Trump plan to claw back spending Senators hammer Ross over Trump tariffs GOP senator demands details on 'damaging' tariffs MORE (R-Tenn.) announced he would back her nomination.

It's a noted turnaround from the Senate Banking Committee member, who strongly suggested a little over a month ago that he would oppose her. Corker’s support also strongly indicates that Yellen would be confirmed, as several other Republicans have indicated a willingness to vote for her.

In a statement released Wednesday, Corker said that he would have preferred a nominee with a “more modest view” on the limits of monetary policy but appreciated Yellen’s commitment to Fed transparency and her acknowledgment that the bank’s current monetary policy is unsustainable. He also said she was qualified to handle the job.

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A little over a month earlier, when Yellen was first nominated to replace Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke by President Obama, Corker struck a different tone about the pick.

In a statement then, Corker noted that he opposed Yellen in 2010 when she was nominated to serve as the Fed’s vice chair, citing her “dovish views” on monetary policy. He strongly suggested he would oppose the pick again.

“We will closely examine her record since that time, but I am not aware of anything that demonstrates her views have changed,” he said.

Several Republicans have been skeptical of Yellen, given her role in supporting the Fed’s extremely accommodative policy. The Fed is currently buying $85 billion of bonds a month in an effort to stimulate the economy, even as conservatives fret the central bank's strategy is distorting markets and exposing the U.S. to dangerous inflation.

At her confirmation hearing, Yellen did not shy away from backing that policy, saying it was needed to get the economy back to normal. But Corker said that his private conversations with Yellen revealed that she understands that policy is unsustainable and should end as soon as it is appropriate.

“She understands that monetary policy is a blunt object, that distortions are occurring, and that the affluent disproportionately benefit from easy money policies,” he said. “During our discussions, she made a commitment to moderate purchases as soon as she believes the data supports that action and shows that the current status cannot continue.”

The Senate Banking Committee is set to vote Thursday on Yellen’s nomination. She will not garner universal support — Sen. David VitterDavid Bruce VitterSenate panel advances Trump nominee who wouldn't say if Brown v. Board of Education was decided correctly Planned Parenthood targets judicial nominee over abortion comments Trump nominates wife of ex-Louisiana senator to be federal judge MORE (R-La.) has already said he would oppose her, and questions from Sen. Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoGOP senators introduce bill to prevent family separations at border All the times Horowitz contradicted Wray — but nobody seemed to notice Senate Dems want watchdog to probe if SEC official tried to pressure bank on gun policies MORE (R-Idaho), the ranking member of the panel, indicated he would oppose the pick as well.

However, several Senate Republicans, including Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate Gang of Four to meet next week on immigration Republicans agree — it’s only a matter of time for Scott Pruitt Skyrocketing insulin prices provoke new outrage MORE (R-Maine), Mike JohannsMichael (Mike) Owen JohannsMeet the Democratic sleeper candidate gunning for Senate in Nebraska Farmers, tax incentives can ease the pain of a smaller farm bill Lobbying World MORE (R-Neb.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenate panel advances three spending bills Trump says he will sign executive order to end family separations Trump backs narrow bill halting family separations: official MORE (R-S.C.), have indicated they are likely to back Yellen. Corker’s support suggests that several Republicans, including those less conservative than him, could provide the votes to get Yellen confirmed.