Senate expected to confirm two Fed nominees

WASHINGTON Wed May 16, 2012 9:31pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Senate has removed procedural hurdles ahead of the anticipated confirmation on Thursday of President Barack Obama's two stalled nominees to the Federal Reserve Board.

A Democratic congressional aide said the Senate would now hold separate votes on Harvard economist Jeremy Stein and investment banker Jerome Powell, who is also a lawyer.

Both are expected to receive the necessary support of 60 senators for confirmation, bringing the seven-member board of the U.S. central bank to full strength for the first time since 2006.

"Both nominees have strong bipartisan support and are expected to pass," the aide said.

With enough support apparently at hand, Senate leaders did away with plans for procedural votes before final consideration. The decisive votes will now take place around midday and be preceded by brief debate.

Republican Senator David Vitter, a conservative member of the Banking Committee, had been holding up the nominations.

Vitter was concerned Stein and Powell would simply become "rubber stamps" for the policies of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

Republicans, including presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney, have criticized the Fed's aggressive steps to stimulate the weak economy.

But Obama's two choices appear to have enough bipartisan support to clear the Senate, which is narrowly controlled by Democrats.

Powell was a Treasury Department official under President George H.W. Bush, while Stein was once a senior adviser to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

(Reporting By John Crawley; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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