WASHINGTON -- Senators on Monday are expected to confirm Janet L. Yellen as the next head of the Federal Reserve, scheduling a late afternoon vote that could be the closest ever for a leader of the central bank.
Yellen, 67, a former UC Berkeley economist, would be the first woman to lead the Fed after being nominated by President Obama last fall and the first Democrat to hold the job since 1987.
The Democratic-controlled Senate has set a vote for 5:30 p.m. EST on Monday, its first day back after a holiday break.
Despite the historic nature of the appointment and a well-regarded background as the Fed’s current vice chair and as former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, many Republicans are expected to vote against her.
Yellen’s confirmation vote probably will be the closest ever for a Fed chair, said Chris Krueger, a senior policy analyst at financial services firm Guggenheim Partners in Washington.
The smallest confirmation margin for a Fed leader was four years ago, when the Senate voted 70-30 to confirm Ben S. Bernanke to a second four-year term amid intense criticism of the central bank’s policies.
Bernanke’s term expires Jan. 31.
Despite being a Republican originally nominated as Fed chief by President George W. Bush, Bernanke was opposed for a second term by 18 GOP senators in 2010.
They complained the Fed had overstepped its bounds in taking aggressive actions during the financial crisis and was risking runaway inflation with easy-money policies designed to stimulate the sagging economy.
Bernanke also was opposed by 12 Democrats and one independent, liberal Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. They argued Bernanke and the Fed were concerned about helping Wall Street more than average Americans.
Yellen has much more support among Democrats than Bernanke did four years ago, including many liberals who actively lobbied for President Obama to nominate her over former Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers.
But she has less support among Republicans, many of whom have become increasingly frustrated by Fed stimulus policies that have swelled the central bank’s balance sheet to about $4 trillion.
The Fed decided in December to start scaling back a key stimulus program, but is still purchasing $75 billion a month in bonds to try to boost growth and lower unemployment.
The Senate Banking Committee voted 14-8 to confirm Yellen in November. One Democrat, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, joined seven Republicans in opposing her nomination. Three Republicans voted to confirm her.
Krueger noted that the committee voted 16-7 to confirm Bernanke for a second term, a bit better than Yellen’s tally.
“Her final confirmation vote will likely be the closest in history, as most Republicans will vote against” her, Krueger said. “But she has a minimum of 55 Democrats, five more than she needs.”