Opinion Columns & Blogs

Editorial: Threat to block Yellen shows GOP obstructionism run amok

Janet Yellen breezed through her confirmation hearing Thursday to become the nation’s next central banker, so she’s a shoo-in, right?

Not so fast, if some Republicans make good on their threat to block a vote in the Senate until they get their way.

Republicans have made a habit of delaying President Barack Obama’s appointees to his Cabinet, executive agencies and the federal courts. To stall highly qualified nominees for completely unrelated reasons takes obstructionism to a whole new level.

That, however, is the ultimatum being made by Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona in their obsessive crusade to blame the White House for the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

Because of the GOP tactics, instead of a simple majority, it will take 60 votes in the Senate to get an up-or-down vote on Yellen.

There can be little doubt that she is the best person for this crucial job. A professor at UC Berkeley for 14 years and the Federal Reserve’s vice chairman for the last three, Yellen hit many of the right notes during Thursday’s hearing before the Senate Banking Committee.

She said that the recovery is still fragile so the central bank must continue stimulating the economy by keeping interest rates low and buying government bonds. She said her top concern is persistently high long-term unemployment, which she pointed out is “particularly painful” for families and can ruin marriages.

Too many Californians know that all too well. Of the 1.74 million unemployed as of August, 517,000 had been jobless a year or more. At the same time, more than 1.2 million have run out of unemployment benefits.

Middle-class Americans who have jobs are struggling, too, but Yellen wasn’t as strong in her responses when senators raised concerns about growing income inequality. It is essential that the vast majority of Americans share in growing prosperity, not just the privileged few, like those who get to invest early in new stocks such as Twitter.

Few questions were asked, however, about Yellen’s suitability for the post. There’s no legitimate reason why she shouldn’t be confirmed well before Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke steps down at the end of January.

If a few Senate Republicans stand in her way, and that derails the recovery and spooks the financial markets, Americans will know exactly whom to hold responsible.