Senate Banking Committee advances Fed, other nominees

Vitter said in a statement beforehand that he planned to oppose the picks, arguing they would not challenge Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke enough. 

I refuse to provide Chairman Bernanke with two more rubber stamps who approve of the Feds activist policies,” Vitter said.

Thursdays vote set the stage for what Democratic aides hope could be the swift confirmation of the picks to fill banking regulatory seats before lawmakers take off Friday for a two-week recess.

Nortons nomination could be packaged with fellow FDIC nominees Martin Gruenberg and Thomas Hoenig, as well as Thomas Curry, who has been nominated to serve as the next comptroller of the currency, an aide said. Those three nominees received committee approval back in September, but have yet to be approved by the full Senate.

Gruenberg is currently serving as the acting chairman of the FDIC, and previously served as the second-ranking member on the regulator before being nominated to fill the top spot following the departure of Sheila Bair. Hoenig, a Republican who previously headed the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Mo., would serve as vice chairman if confirmed.

Curry would fill the top spot at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which has been vacant since August, when John Dugan completed his five-year term. John Walsh has been serving as acting director.

If no senators object, the nominees could be quickly confirmed by the chamber via unanimous consent.

But with DeMint and Vitter on the record against the two Fed nominees, the path forward is murkier. Currently, the Fed is operating at reduced strength, with just 10 of 12 voting members of the policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee.