Senate votes to set up Jan. confirmation for Yellen as Fed chair

The Senate cleared the way on Friday for the confirmation of Janet Yellen as the next chairwoman of the Federal Reserve early next year. 

In a 59 to 34 vote, senators voted to end debate on the nomination of Yellen, President Barack Obama’s pick to succeed Ben Bernanke as the head of the Federal Reserve’s board of governors. If confirmed, Yellen would be the first woman to ever hold that position. 

Just five Republican senators supported moving forward with Yellen’s nomination; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who was hospitalized Friday morning for precautionary reasons, missed the vote.

Friday’s Senate vote was the last before lawmakers left town for their holiday recess. Democrats had sought a final confirmation vote for Yellen before the break, but they struck an agreement with Republicans on late Thursday to instead schedule the confirmation vote for Jan. 6.

Yellen currently serves as vice chair of the Federal Reserve board, and her nomination has been seen as one of relative continuity with the two-term tenure of Bernanke. The outgoing Fed chairman is credited with acting aggressively to prop up financial institutions during the height of the 2008 economic crisis. 

Bernanke has also pioneered the use of the Fed to help stimulate the U.S. economy more broadly as it recovers from the depths of the recession provoked by the financial crisis. That practice, known has “quantitative easing,” has drawn criticism from different ideological corners. 

The Fed earlier this week said that it would begin to “taper” its stimulative practices, though, as signs of economic improvement have grown. The government announced Friday that gross domestic product had grown at a relatively robust 4.1 percent in the third quarter, an upward revision from preliminary estimates.