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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.

Conservative groups that led the charge during the October fiscal fights plan to sit out the high-profile confirmation debate over Janet L. Yellen to chair the Federal Reserve.

Republican senators are already promising sharp opposition to Yellen, whose confirmation hearing Thursday will be punctuated by GOP grievances on monetary and regulatory policies, and some lawmakers have threatened procedural holds to her nomination. But it looks like Republicans may be able to vote for her without tarnishing their records with top conservative groups, helping to ensure she’ll have the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.

The Club for Growth and Heritage Action for America, two prominent organizations that have not shied away from battles with the pro-business wing of the Republican party, appear ready to spend the Yellen fight on the sidelines.

“There’s no mystery and it’s not complicated. We just almost never take a position on monetary policy,” said Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller in an email. “Thus, we probably won’t be involved in the Yellen nomination.”

Don’t expect much from Heritage Action, either, said the group’s spokesman Dan Holler.

Although tea party activists in general loathe the Fed and what they deride as the central bank’s “loose money” policies, the apparent lack of a full-fledged campaign against Yellen suggests a reluctance to launch an effort that would rattle markets. The Senate Banking Committee hearing, and debates on her confirmation, come only a couple of weeks after the battle over the government shutdown and raising the debt ceiling, a fight that displayed fissures within the GOP over strategy and a gap between hard-line conservatives and traditional, pro-business Republicans.

Tea party activists and the elected officials they support have blasted the Fed for its policies on low interest rates, bond-buying and financial regulation, but GOP senators have not mounted a serious threat to Yellen’s confirmation.

One of her chief critics — Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. — concedes that she is likely a shoo-in for the central bank’s top slot, never mind the political polarized response to Fed policies since the 2008 financial collapse; Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, whose term expires Jan. 31, received 30 “no” votes — the most ever for a Fed chair nominee when he was advanced for a second term.

But no nominee to lead the Fed has ever been filibustered or rejected by the Senate. Such a scenario might roil financial markets.

In the division over the Fed within the Republican Party between Wall Street supporters and the populist tea party, in this case, the business side seems to be winning.

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