WASHINGTON -- With the Federal Reserve Board facing the potential departure of all its women members, President Obama reportedly is considering nominating a top female Treasury official, Lael Brainard, to fill one of the seats.
Brainard, the undersecretary for international affairs, is one of the highest-ranking women at the Treasury Department. Word of her potential nomination, reported by the Washington Post over the weekend, came as Obama is facing pressure from women's groups and female lawmakers to pick Fed Vice Chair Janet L. Yellen to replace Ben S. Bernanke to head the central bank.
Yellen is a leading contender for the job along with former Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers. The Fed has never had a woman chair.
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In recent weeks, Summers has appeared to emerge as the favorite for that job. If Yellen is passed over for the nomination, she probably would resign from the Fed's Board of Governors.
That could leave the seven-person board without a female member.
Elizabeth Duke stepped down from the board this summer. And another female board member, Sarah Bloom Raskin, was nominated in July to be deputy Treasury Secretary. She is expected to be confirmed this fall, causing another departure.
In addition, Sandra Pianalto, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, has announced she will leave that position early next year. Pianalto is a member of the central bank's policymaking Federal Open Market Committee.
If Brainard were nominated and confirmed, it would ensure that the Fed board has at least one woman member next year. Her selection also could signal that Obama was planning to choose Summers to replace Bernanke, whose term as chairman ends in January.
A White House spokeswoman on Monday declined to comment on a potential Brainard nomination.
Brainard, an economist and former associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has served in the top Treasury position since 2010. A former deputy national economic advisor to President Clinton, she plays a key role in Treasury's relations with foreign governments.
Her Senate confirmation was delayed for several months because of Republican concerns about late property tax payments. She was confirmed in April 2010 by a 78-19 vote.