WASHINGTON -- Federal Reserve Vice Chair Janet Yellen moved closer Thursday to becoming the first woman to lead the U.S. central bank after a Senate committee approved her nomination and sent it to the full Senate for a final vote.
If confirmed, as is widely expected, Yellen would replace Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke when his term expires on Jan. 31 and become the most powerful woman in world finance.
The vote was 14-8. Three Republicans backed her appointment and one Democrat voted no.
A Democratic leadership aide said the aim was to hold a confirmation vote in the full Senate in December.
Nominated by President Barack Obama, Yellen is viewed as a monetary policy dove more concerned about the costs to society of high unemployment than about the risk aggressive actions to lower it will ignite future inflation or fuel asset bubbles.
She will preside over a central bank that has taken dramatic and unconventional steps to spur economic growth, and which is now wrestling with a decision on when to scale back a bond-buying program that has sought to drive down long-term market interest rates.
The Fed has held benchmark U.S. interest rates near zero since late 2008 and has quadrupled the size of its balance sheet to $3.9 trillion through three massive asset purchase campaigns. It is currently buying $85 billion in bonds a month.
Both Yellen and Bernanke have emphasized in recent days that the Fed will keep interest rates low for some time even after it winds down its asset purchases, remarks that have bolstered expectations of policy continuity at the central bank.
Friends and Foes
Minutes of the Fed's October meeting released Wednesday showed policymakers were debating how best to enhance their forward guidance on when to expect rates to rise to help temper any economically disruptive moves in financial markets once the central bank starts tapering its bond buying.
The Fed has said it wouldn't raise rates before the U.S. jobless rate falls to 6.5 percent, as long as inflation looked set to stay below 2.5 percent. Unemployment stood at 7.3 percent in October.
When Bernanke first broached the possibility of a near-term reduction in the asset purchases in May and June, he sparked a bout of global financial market turmoil that sent bond yields soaring and hit emerging markets hard.
The Fed's aggressive actions have drawn fire from Republican lawmakers worried about the risk of inflation and asset bubbles. %VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%Many also complain the central bank has abetted big spending by the Obama administration by snapping up the bulk of new Treasury debt issuance.
"The long-term costs of these policies are unclear and frankly worrisome," Sen. Michael Crapo, the top Republican on the banking panel, said before voting "no."
Despite those concerns, Yellen is expected to handily win confirmation when the full Senate considers her nomination.
Democrats control 55 of the 100 votes in the Senate, which means she would need the backing of only a handful of Republicans to secure the 60 votes necessary to clear any procedural hurdles that might be thrown in her path.
She looks well on the way to reaching that threshold.
Yellen received support from three Republicans on the committee: Bob Corker of Tennessee, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Mark Kirk of Illinois.
In addition, Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina have also indicated they are inclined to back her.
The Democrat who voted against her in committee was Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
The Monster in the Closet: Economic Horrors and Scary Movies
Yellen Clears First Senate Hurdle to Become Next Fed Chair
If you thought this classic horror movie was about a haunted house, see if this scenario sounds familiar: An idealistic young couple buys a home that sounds too good to be true. Once they're mortgaged to the hilt, problems start to crop up. They can't leave, they can't stay, and an unseen evil force starts to tear their family apart.
Filmmakers have used zombies to symbolize everything from faceless corporations to the inhumanity of the military industrial complex. In this early offering (and, to a lesser extent, in its remake), it isn't particularly hard to figure out the greater symbolism of a bunch of mindless, shambling zombies swarming into a shopping mall.
Speaking of mindless shambling, "Shaun of the Dead" used the same conceit to symbolize office work.
Everybody remembers Janet Leigh's death scene in the classic slasher flick. What they forget, though, is why she ended up in the Bates Motel in the first place: She was on the run after stealing a small fortune from her employer. As for the motel itself, it was facing hard times because the recently-unveiled highway drove away business.
For a funnier take on a similar story, you might try taking a peek at "Auntie Lee's Meat Pies", which manages to brilliantly combine cannibalism, serial murder and Pat Morita.
Forget ghosts and ghouls: Few things are scarier than asking the bank for a loan. But in this Sam Raimi-directed flick, the tables are turned as a young loan officer turns a deaf ear to a seemingly feeble gypsy woman trying to borrow some money. Needless to say, all hell breaks loose.
On the surface, this 1981 classic is the tale of super-evolved wolves preying on New Yorkers. Scratch a little deeper, though, and another story emerges: The tale of wealthy Manhattanites preying on poor people in the Bronx, then being themselves preyed upon by wolves. In other words, NYC in the 1970s was truly a dog-eat-dog world.
If you want another fix or two of class-based horror, check out "CHUD" and "Street Trash," both of explore the plight of New York's invisible homeless.
Sure, Stanley Kubrick's 1980 horror film is all about telepathic kids and haunted houses and elevators full of blood. But one of the first bits of fear and tension occurs in the hotel manager's office, where Jack Torrance, a recovering alcoholic who can't seem to hold onto a job, finds himself forced to beg for a gig as the winter caretaker of a resort hotel. Anybody who remembers the travails of searching for a job will recognize this truth: The nightmare isn't being trapped a haunted house -- it's having to grovel to get a job in a haunted house.
Angus Scrimm's Tall Man character is one of the more unnerving monsters in filmland: Not only does he steal the bodies of the dead, but he also steals the souls of towns. As Reggie and Mike travel cross country, it isn't hard to pick up his trail -- they just have to look for boarded-up stores, deserted streets and abandoned homes. Of course, for 1988 audiences facing the effects of outsourcing, the monster emptying out their towns was a little harder to explain.
For another take on the "monsters-as-suburban-economics" metaphor, take a peek at "Poltergeist." Between the unethical developer who didn't bother to relcoate a graveyard and the mindless TV that saps your soul, the Tobe Hooper classic manages to hit a host of cultural touchstones!
A whole subset of horror films is dedicated to rural families living off the land ... and the miserable travelers who happen across their path. It isn't hard to see why it might be an attractive premise: After all, there's no lack of people clinging to the bottom rung of the economic ladder, and it isn't hard to imagine that they may be one paycheck away from having to make their own clothes and hunt their own meat. What happens afterward ... well, that's where it gets really ugly.
If you want even more tips on living off the land (and curious teenagers), you might check out "The Hills Have Eyes," "Wolf Creek" and "Mother's Day." For a funny take on the same premise, try "Tucker and Dale Versus Evil."