Senators to grill Janet Yellen

Senators to grill Janet Yellen
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POSTED: Thursday, November 14, 2013 - 10:00am

UPDATED: Thursday, November 14, 2013 - 10:04am

Let the grilling begin: Janet Yellen heads to Capitol Hill thursday to face the Senate Banking Committee in her confirmation hearing to serve as the next head of the Federal Reserve.

In opening statements released ahead of the hearing, Senator Tim Johnson, chairman of the committee, said he is "excited" to cast his vote in her favor.

"Dr. Yellen has proven through her extensive and impressive record in public service and academia that she is most qualified to be the next Chair of the Federal Reserve," Johnson said in his prepared remarks.

The Federal Reserve also released Yellen's opening statement.

In it, she doesn't get into details about the Fed's current bond-buying program, but she does say she believes the central bank "has more work to do."

"We have made good progress, but we have farther to go to regain the ground lost in the crisis and the recession," Yellen said in the statement.

Yellen is likely to face the toughest questions from Republican senators Richard Shelby of Alabama and Bob Corker of Tennessee, both who voted against her nomination to serve as Fed vice chair in 2010.

"I felt she like she was not particularly modest about the role of monetary policy in the economy, and I don't see any evidence that has changed," Corker told CNBC last month.

Conservatives often argue the Federal Reserve has already done enough to stimulate the economy.

They fear that the trillions of dollars pumped into the economy over the past five years could risk triggering rapid inflation in the future.

Yellen is considered an "inflation dove" by economists.

In several speeches, she has indicated she is more worried about high unemployment than prices picking up any time soon.

"Unemployment is down from a peak of 10%, but at 7.3% in October, it is still too high, reflecting a labor market and economy performing far short of their potential," she said in her prepared remarks.

Questions from Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts could also get interesting.

Although Warren has publicly supported Yellen's nomination, she has also criticized the Fed for its role in bailing out Wall Street during the financial crisis.

At a hearing in February, she grilled current Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke about "too-big-to-fail" banks.

In her prepared remarks, Yellen said she believes "strong supervision" is important to addressing the too-big-to-fail problem, but the Fed should also "limit the regulatory burden for community banks and smaller institutions."

Bernanke's second term ends January 31.

Despite protests from some Republicans, Yellen is largely expected to be confirmed for the position before then, given the Democratic majority in the Senate.

The Federal Reserve has been trying to stimulate the economy since December 2008, first by slashing short-term interest rates to near zero, and next by launching three bond-buying sprees in an attempt to lower long-term rates as well.

The bond-buying program, known as quantitative easing, remains controversial but is still ongoing.

The Fed currently buys $85 billion each month in Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities.

If confirmed, Yellen faces a daunting task: How to wean the economy off Fed stimulus at the right time.

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