Important days for a U.S. Senate chairman

Someone with the knowledge and experience and connections on Capitol Hill should report on the times of Democrat Tim Johnson of South Dakota during his service as chairman of the U.S. Senate’s banking committee. Our nation has gone through a rocky financial period in recent years and banks were at the heart of the instability. This week is an example of the powerful position that Johnson holds. On Wednesday, his committee was privately briefed by Secretary of State John Kerry regarding nuclear negotiations with Iran. The Obama administration believes a multi-nation deal is near with Iran and doesn’t want the Democrat-majority Senate to follow the path set by the Republican-majority House of Representatives in placing tougher financial sanctions on Iran. The sanctions that have been in place appear to have at least partially influenced Iran’s decision to come to the negotiation table. New sanctions would go through the Senate banking committee.

Today the banking committee’s confirmation hearing starts regarding Janet Yellen. She is President Obama’s nominee to succeed Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve, which in large part sets U.S. economic and financial policy. Yellen, who appears immensely qualified, would be the first woman to hold the post. She wasn’t Obama’s first choice. He wanted Larry Summers, who served in the Clinton administration, including the final three years as secretary of the treasury and served on Obama’s national economic council. Obama’s preference for Summers ran into problems in the Senate from Democrats and Republicans, and Summers took himself out of the play. That opened the way for the nomination of Yellen, who currently is the Fed’s vice chairwoman. Johnson recently described Yellen as “most qualified” to be the next chair. The hearing has been pushed to the side in U.S. national news media by Obamacare’s problems. Yellen’s confirmation, when it occurs, will mark a significant defeat for the president at the hands of the Senate. Johnson, quietly, will have been at the center of it.

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About Bob Mercer

I am a newspaper reporter in Pierre where I cover state government, issues and politics for the Aberdeen American News, the Black Hills Pioneer, the Mitchell Daily Republic, the Pierre Capital Journal, the Rapid City Journal, the Watertown Public Opinion and the Yankton Press & Dakotan. I began covering the Legislature in 1985 and have lived in Pierre since December 1986. I grew up in Wisconsin, worked my way through college, took my first full-time newspapers jobs in Wyoming, and have lived in South Dakota since the summer of 1984 when I moved to Aberdeen to join the American News. I worked for the Rapid City Journal as its state government reporter in Pierre from late 1992 through late 1998. I spent four years as press secretary and a senior aide to Gov. Bill Janklow during his fourth and final term from late 1998 through 2002. I returned to journalism in January 2003 as a self-employed reporter, providing state government coverage to the Mitchell, Watertown, Spearfish, Pierre and, depending on the year, Aberdeen newspapers. In 2008, the Aberdeen American News offered to hire me as full-time member of the AAN staff, with my reports continuing to be available to the Mitchell, Watertown, Spearfish, Pierre, Yankton and Rapid City papers. The new arrangement has been in effect since January 2009 as the seven papers continue their remarkable dedication to their readers and the general public, as the only South Dakota news outlets with a full-time reporter covering state government in Pierre throughout the year. In addition to focusing on the Legislature during the annual winter session and its various activities during the interim periods between sessions, I spend many days throughout the year -- traveling as often necessary -- to cover state government boards and commissions which oversee the state universities, technical institutes, outdoors, water, environment, business, public schools, banking, agriculture, utilities, health care and various other areas of public interest. I purposely don't register to vote because of my profession; the last time I recall voting in a presidential election was the first time, 1976, when I had just turned 18. I think I voted for Jimmy Carter over Gerald Ford. Make of that what you want, just don't make much of it.

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