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Conservative Groups Taper Views on Yellen Confirmation

Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images
Yellen is currently the vice chairwoman of the Federal Reserve. If confirmed, she would be the first woman to head the central bank.

Just off the bruising debates over the nations debt ceiling and the government shutdown, few crave a war that could put financial markets in turmoil, said Greg Valliere, chief political strategist with the political intelligence firm Potomac Research Group.

So many people feel a bit chastened by putting the country through such a debacle with the shutdown and debt limit that I think this inclination to go for brinkmanship has diminished since October, Valliere said.

Averting Scorched Earth

Yellen, a Democrat who currently serves as the Feds vice chairwoman, has strong backing on Wall Street. The Feds monetary stimulus program intended to curb unemployment, which Yellen championed, has also helped fuel big gains in the financial sector.

Many of the Feds detractors say the quantitative easing, with its $85-billion-a-month buying spree in Treasury and mortgage-backed securities has helped Wall Street, but not Main Street.

I understand that some of the tea party types have antipathy toward Wall Street. I get that, Valliere said. But at the same time, theres an aversion to upsetting the markets. Theres an aversion to more scorched earth.

Mark Calabria, director of financial regulation studies at the Cato Institute and a former GOP aide on the Senate Banking Committee, said the advocacy groups may have decided another battle wasnt worth it, particularly without solid GOP unity.

Republicans have basically pre-emptively caved, Calabria said. I think there is a sense that its a fight thats already been lost.

He noted Yellen would be the first woman to head the central bank, a historic occasion that could influence GOP votes.

Im not going to say the gender of Janet Yellen is going to determine how Sen. [Susan] Collins is going to vote, but I think its a factor, Calabria said of the Maine Republican.

The decision of conservative groups not to key-vote Yellens nomination would avoid stirring up further internecine battles in a Republican party wrestling with its stances on major policy questions.

Theyre in a unique spot where theyre trying to repair relationships with the Republican caucus, and I actually believe thats a factor here, Calabria said.

With the biggest players in the conservative movement so far not engaged, that has left smaller organizations, such as American Principles in Action, to take the lead in mobilizing opposition to Yellen.

Its just a huge void within the conservative policy movement, said Rich Danker, the APAs economics project director. If youre an organization like Heritage for limited government, wouldnt you want to weigh in on the fact that the Fed has been running a policy initiative to buy government debt? It boggles my mind.

Its also a sharp contrast to a recent fight over another financial regulatory nomination that of Rep. Melvin Watt, D-N.C., to take the helm of the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Republicans filibustered his nomination, with the help of the Club for Growth and Heritage Action, which included Watts cloture vote on their annual key vote score cards.

FreedomWorks, another conservative group, supports Pauls legislation to audit the Feds monetary policy and wants to see a vote on that in concert with Yellens nomination.

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