UPDATE 1-Senate banking panel to vote on Fed's Yellen on Thursday

Mon Nov 18, 2013 5:21pm EST

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WASHINGTON Nov 18 (Reuters) - The Senate Banking Committee will vote on Thursday on President Barack Obama's nomination of Janet Yellen to be the next chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve, a sign her confirmation to become the first woman to lead the central bank was advancing smoothly.

The committee will meet at 10 a.m. (1500 GMT) to vote on whether to send Yellen's nomination to the full Senate for consideration, it said in a statement on Monday.

Yellen, whose hearing before the banking panel last Thursday to vet her credentials for the post was widely viewed as having gone well, is expected to win confirmation with relative ease.

Yellen is currently vice chair of the Federal Reserve board and a former president of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank.

Obama's Democrats hold 12 of the 22 seats on the committee and control 55 of the 100 votes in the Senate, which means she would need to gather only five Republican votes to overcome any procedural hurdles.

Furthermore, some Republican committee members who have harshly criticized the central bank's ultra-easy policies did not choose to use the hearing to pressure Yellen.

Some analysts saw this as a deliberate effort to avoid drawing attention away from deep problems around the roll-out of Obama's signature healthcare reform, since picking a fight over Yellen might have become a distraction.

To be sure, several Republicans say they will place holds on her nomination to win leverage on other issues, ensuring that she will need to get at least 60 votes to be confirmed.

South Carolina's Lindsey Graham wants more information about an attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya in 2012, while Kentucky's Rand Paul wants to force a vote on his bill to open the Fed's monetary policy decisions to congressional audit.

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