WASHINGTON Janet Yellen's Senate confirmation hearing to be the next chair of the Federal Reserve is not likely to get under way before the middle of next month, a Senate aide said on Wednesday.
President Barack Obama nominated Yellen, the Fed's current vice chair, on October 9 to replace Ben Bernanke when his term expires at the end of January, subject to Senate confirmation.
Her hearing before the banking panel is the next step in that process, but Senate staff are still waiting to receive the paperwork from the White House before scheduling a start date, the aide said.
The hearing is expected to be somewhat confrontational, with Republicans critical of the Fed's ultra-easy monetary policy using the opportunity to voice concerns that it risks financial instability and future inflation.
But Obama's Democrats control the Senate, including 12 seats on the 20-member banking panel. As a result, Yellen is expected to win confirmation fairly easily, and to take the helm of the U.S. central bank when Bernanke steps down on January 31.
The Fed has held interest rates near zero since late 2008 and quadrupled the size of its balance sheet through massive bond purchases, in an effort to boost economic recovery after a severe 2007-2009 recession and drive down lofty unemployment.
Yellen has been a stout supporter of this aggressive action and her appointment is viewed as likely to ensure policy continuity with the Bernanke era as policymakers weigh when to start scaling back bond buying and eventually raising rates.