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Senate committee approves 3 nominees to fill vacancies on Federal Reserve board

WASHINGTON - A Senate committee on Tuesday advanced the nominations of three officials selected by President Barack Obama to fill vacancies on the seven-member Federal Reserve Board.

The Banking Committee approved the nominations of Stanley Fischer to be vice chairman and Lael Brainard to be a board member. It also approved the nomination of Jerome Powell, a current board member, for another term.

The three, approved on a voice vote, are expected to win easy approval in the full Senate. Committee Chairman Tim Johnson, D-S.D., said that given the vacancies on the Fed's board, it's important for the Senate to act quickly on the nominations.

Fischer, a former head of the Bank of Israel, would succeed Janet Yellen in the No. 2 job, the post she vacated to become Fed chair in February.

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., asked to be recorded voting no on the nominations. He said he objected to what he described as the board's domination by academic economists. He said more community bankers should be serving on the board, given the Fed's role as a top bank regulator.

Fischer and Brainard, an undersecretary of Treasury during Obama's first term, are considered experts in global economics.

During their confirmation hearing in March, Fischer, Brainard and Powell endorsed the policies the Fed has pursued to promote economic growth by keeping borrowing rates historically low. The low rates are intended to spur spending and help the economy continue to recover from the Great Recession.

Powell, a Republican, first joined the board in May 2012 for a term that ended in January. Fed board members can remain on the board after their term expires until their successor is chosen.

Even with Obama's three nominations, the president will need to fill two more spots on the Fed board.

Sarah Bloom Raskin, a former Maryland banking regulator, stepped down in March to become deputy Treasury secretary. And Jeremy Stein has announced that he will resign at the end of May to return to his post as an economics professor at Harvard University.

Obama has yet to nominate anyone for those two positions. Banking groups are lobbying for the president to select a community banker for at least one of the positions.

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