White House: Obama To Tap Janet Yellen For Fed Chair

The White House announced Tuesday that President Obama will nominate Federal Reserve Vice Chairwoman Janet Yellen to chair the Federal Reserve Wednesday. She would replace Ben Bernanke, who's stepping down from the post. Yellen has been the presumptive nominee for weeks, after Lawrence Summers announced his intention to remove himself from the running in September. She'd be the first woman to head the Fed.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

I'm Melissa Block. And there's news late today that tomorrow President Obama will nominate Janet Yellen to be the next chairman of the Federal Reserve. If confirmed, she would replace Ben Bernanke whose term expires in January. Yellen is currently number two at the Fed, and she would be the first woman to lead the central bank. NPR's Scott Horsley joins me now and, Scott, this announcement caps off a very public search for a new Fed chairman. How did we get here?

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Very public indeed, Melissa. The president has said this is one of the most important selections he will make while in office, up there with a Supreme Court nomination. And it's had a lot of the drama of a Supreme Court nomination with factions lining up behind favored candidates, something you don't ordinarily in the choice of a central banker. It looked for awhile as if the president would nominate Larry Summers, the former Treasury secretary who was a top White House economic adviser early on in the administration.

But Summers had some baggage. Some people saw him as too much a product of the old Clinton White House, too associated with the federal deregulation of the late 1990's - although that's probably sort of a caricature of where Summers is in more recent times. He also had antagonized women with comments he made as president at Harvard. So Summers himself withdrew from consideration last month, saying the confirmation battle would be too divisive. And since then, Janet Yellen has really been pretty much the heir-apparent to Ben Bernanke.

BLOCK: And as we mentioned, currently number two at the Fed. Tell us a bit more about her background.

HORSLEY: She is a well-respected economist. She also worked in the Clinton administration and she has a long history at the Fed. She's seen as an inflation dove, and by that I mean, of course, the Fed has twin mandates to both keep inflation in check and maximize employment. Yellen is seen as someone who pays at least as much attention to the employment side of the ledger, and that's something President Obama has said he wants. Inflation has been tame for awhile now, while unemployment's still quite high. She's also, of course, someone who brings continuity to the Fed as it struggles with unwinding some of the more unorthodox economic stimulus measures it's employed.

BLOCK: And Scott, what do you make of the timing of this announcement?

HORSLEY: It's certainly interesting. Ben Bernanke could be there for months to come, but it does give the president another opportunity to seem, as he tried to do during his news conference today, as a responsible party, taking care of business and painting his congressional Republican opposition as the unwieldy parties.

BLOCK: OK. NPR's Scott Horsley with the news that tomorrow, the White House will be nominating Janet Yellen to head the Federal Reserve. Scott, thanks so much.

HORSLEY: My pleasure.

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