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Politics

Obama hammers Republicans after Fed pick wins Nobel

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Monday seized on the award of the Nobel prize in economics to his pick for the Federal Reserve to ratchet up pressure on Senate Republicans, who have blocked the confirmation.

Peter Diamond’s nomination is among dozens the White House says are being held up in the Senate.

“I have nominated Peter to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve to help bring his extraordinary expertise to our economic recovery,” Obama said in a statement. “I hope he will be confirmed by the Senate as quickly as possible.”

Diamond told a press conference held to mark the award of the coveted prize he had no plans to withdraw his name from consideration for the Fed job.

The White House says Senate Republicans are blocking nominations purely to thwart Obama and argues that in the case of Diamond, this puts the U.S. economic recovery at risk.

“Obstructing a nominee as well-qualified as Peter in a time of economic crisis is a harmful attempt to score political points that hurts our middle class and our broader economic recovery,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

Obama is struggling to spur U.S. growth and bring down unemployment stuck near 10 percent.

In the run-up to the November 2 congressional elections, he has sought to deflect public anger toward Republicans for blocking policies and staff appointments the White House says would aid his efforts too boost employment.

Other jobs being kept in limbo by the Senate include top judicial appointments and the confirmation of Obama’s new budget director, Jack Lew, although approval in that instance was withheld by Louisiana Democrat Mary Landrieu to protest Obama’s offshore oil drilling ban.

Diamond, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was one of three economists named as winners of the 2010 economics Nobel on Monday. The others were American Dale Mortensen and British-Cypriot Christopher Pissarides.

The economists were honored for work helping to explain unemployment and job markets.

Senate Republicans blocked Diamond’s confirmation to the Fed Board in Washington in August. They argued that he lacked sufficient macro-economic experience.

Alabama Senator Richard Shelby, the most senior Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, said at the time: “I do not believe the current environment of uncertainty would benefit from monetary policy decisions made by board members who are learning on the job.”

Shelby stuck to his guns on Monday, saying Diamond’s Nobel win had not changed his mind.

“While the Nobel Prize for Economics is a significant recognition, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences does not determine who is qualified to serve on the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System,” Shelby said.

Additional reporting by Ross Colvin, Mark Felsenthal and Tom Ferraro; Editing by Todd Eastham

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