House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said that while Lawrence Summers and Janet Yellen, considered two of the frontrunners for chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, are well-qualified candidates, “it would be great to have a woman.”
Yellen is “extremely talented,” the California congresswoman said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend.
Pelosi said Yellen and Summers both “understand the responsibility of the Fed chairman” and would be “excellent.” She described Summers as “a patriotic leader in our country, working hard.”
President Barack Obama hasn’t named a potential successor to Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, whose term expires at the end of January. Summers and Yellen are the leading candidates to replace Bernanke, according to a former top government official in contact with the White House.
Yellen, 66, is Fed vice chairman and was president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Summers, 58, was Treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton and was Obama’s first National Economic Council director. While president of Harvard University from 2001 to 2006, he touched off a controversy by saying that women lacked an aptitude for science and engineering. He apologized repeatedly for the 2005 remark.
Some of Pelosi’s Democratic counterparts in the Senate -- the chamber that would need to confirm Obama’s chairman pick -- have expressed similar enthusiasm for Yellen.
A group of them plan to send a letter to the White House, calling for Yellen to succeed Bernanke, according to three Senate aides who asked not to be identified discussing internal matters. One third of the 54-member Senate Democratic caucus has signed the letter, which praises Yellen and urges Obama to nominate her, the aides said.
“I’m for Yellen,” Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, who’s leading the letter campaign, said in an interview. “She’s done well as part of the Fed in the last months and months. She really has been a cool, smart head.”
Senators Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Tom Harkin of Iowa are among the other senators who’ve signed the letter.
Senator Barbara Boxer, a Californian like Pelosi and Yellen, called Yellen “outstanding.”
“She has tremendous experience and the right temperament and I think it would be great to have her,” Boxer said in an interview.
On immigration, Pelosi, 73, said a bipartisan task force of seven members could reveal a House version of a plan “in a matter of days.” The Senate’s plan, passed earlier this year, would provide a means for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. to become citizens.
This week, Representative Bob Goodlatte raised the prospect of offering citizenship to children whose parents brought them into the U.S. illegally. Goodlatte is a Virginia Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Pelosi said his plan is “not a good idea.”
“It sounds a lot better than it is, if you’re among the 11 million people,” she said. “Do we want to have an America where we have gradations of respectability, in terms of your legality in the country? I don’t think we do.”
Still, she said, “any action is constructive because it would take us to a discussion which can take us to the conference table” with the Senate.
Speaking about a looming budget showdown in which House Speaker John Boehner has threatened to refuse to increase the country’s debt ceiling unless Congress approves more spending cuts, Pelosi said Democrats are willing to negotiate -- to a point.
“We don’t want to find common ground that loses jobs, that hurts Medicare and makes seniors pay more, and that is not balanced in having a fair participation of the sacrifice,” she said.
Pelosi said she will be in Connecticut this weekend talking about women’s issues such as pay equity, paid medical leave and affordable access to child care -- issues she said she hopes the Republican House majority will take up if they are pressed by voters.
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