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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