Senate Banking clears Fed picks


A Senate panel on Tuesday easily approved three nominees from President Obama to serve on the Federal Reserve.

By a voice vote, the Senate Banking Committee signed off on Stanley Fischer, Lael Brainard and Jerome Powell to serve on the Fed board. Their nominations now head to the full Senate.

If confirmed, Fischer, who previously headed Israel’s central bank, would serve as the Fed’s vice chairman under Chairwoman Janet Yellen. Brainard would join the Fed as a governor, and Powell would receive a full 14-year term to the central bank after joining it in 2012.

All three nominees did not face substantial opposition when they appeared before the panel in March, and their speedy confirmation would be a welcome respite for the Fed, which has three openings on its seven-member board. And a fourth spot is about to open as Jeremy Stein announced plans to step down to return to his teaching post at Harvard University in May.

So even if Powell remains on the board and the two new members are confirmed quickly, that leaves two more spots for the White House to fill at the central bank.

And the vacancies are emerging as the Fed is at a critical juncture. Under Chairwoman Janet Yellen, the Fed is embarking on an exit of years’ worth of stimulus by shrinking the size of the bond purchases in its “quantitative easing” program. The Fed is trying to eliminate that support gradually, without upending markets or the economy.