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Janet Yellen expected to prevail over Fed critics

WASHINGTON -- Janet Yellen will be forced to defend the Federal Reserve's ultra-easy monetary policy when she faces senators later this week, but critics have little hope of sinking her nomination to become the first woman ever to lead the central bank.

Nominated by President Barack Obama to succeed Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke when his term expires in January, Yellen will have to endure plenty of heated anti-Fed rhetoric from Republicans when she appears Thursday before the Senate Banking Committee. The committee will vet her for the job before deciding whether to send her nomination to the full Senate for approval.

The central bank's No. 2 official can at least look forward to warm words from Democrats, who hold 12 of the 22 seats on the panel and who appear certain to give their backing.

She needs support only from a handful of Republicans to muster the 60 votes needed to clear procedural hurdles in the Senate nomination hearings, so Yellen should be confident of confirmation. Democrats control the chamber 55-45.

Even critics think she will get enough bipartisan support to take the Fed's helm.

"The bar is going to be 60 votes. That is clear. And she will probably surpass that bar," said Louisiana Republican David Vitter, who has slammed the Fed's easy-money policies.

Republicans, particularly tea party conservatives, have been scathing in criticism of the Fed's dramatic measures to aid the U.S. economy after the severe 2007-09 recession and financial crisis, arguing its actions risk stoking financial instability and inflation.

Yellen's reputation as a policy dove will be under intense scrutiny. She has argued that the high cost of long-term unemployment might warrant allowing inflation to temporarily rise above the Fed's 2 percent goal.

In an effort to gain leverage on other issues, several Republicans have threatened holds on her nomination.

South Carolina's Lindsey Graham wants more information about an attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya in 2012, while Kentucky's Rand Paul wants to force a vote on his bill to open the Fed's monetary policy decisions to congressional audit. Vitter is a co-sponsor of Paul's legislation.

None of the holds are expected to be placed because of a dispute over Yellen's qualifications, but that will not spare her from criticism.

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