By Alan Fram The Associated Press WASHINGTON The Senate confirmed Janet Yellen on Monday as the first woman to lead the Federal Reserve, elevating an advocate of fighting unemployment and a backer of the central bank's efforts to spur the economy with low interest rates and massive bond purchases. Yellen, 67, will replace Ben Bernanke , who is stepping down after serving as chairman for eight years dominated by the Great Recession and the Fed's efforts to combat it. Senators confirmed her 56-26, with numerous absences caused by airline flight delays forced by arctic temperatures around much of the country. All 45 voting Democrats were joined by 11 Republicans in supporting Yellen, while 26 Republicans voted "no." Vice chair of the Fed since 2010, Yellen begins her four-year term as leader of the century-old bank on Feb. 1 . With the economy rebounding modestly from the depths of the recession, many economists expect her to focus on how to nurture growth without putting it into overdrive, which could risk fueling inflation. Under Bernanke, the Fed has driven short-term interest rates down to near zero and flushed money into the economy with huge bond purchases, which it has just started to ease. Yellen, a strong Bernanke ally, has supported those policies and is expected to continue them until concrete signs emerge of sustained improvement of the economy and job market. A native of Brooklyn, N.Y. , Yellen previously headed the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco , chaired President Bill Clinton's Council of Economic Advisers and has been an economics professor at the University of California at Berkeley . Yellen, who as an academic has focused on unemployment and its causes, is considered a "dove" who wants the Fed more focused on creating jobs because unemployment is high and inflation is low. "Hawks" on these issues prefer a stronger emphasis on preventing inflation. Yellen's Republican critics have said the Fed has inflated stock and real estate prices by pumping money into the markets, creating investment bubbles that could burst and wound the economy anew. Some also warn that as the Fed starts to trim its bond holdings, it could spook financial markets, threatening the economy's recovery by causing stock prices to drop and interest rates to rise. During her November confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking Committee , Yellen said the Fed's bond buying program has successfully supported the economy by keeping long-term borrowing rates low. The Fed's holdings have reached $4 trillion , more than quadruple their level before the financial crisis hit in late 2008. President Barack Obama nominated Yellen in October. the vote Senators confirmed Janet Yellen 56-26, with numerous absences caused by airline flight delays forced by arctic temperatures around much of the country. All 45 voting Democrats were joined by 11 Republicans in supporting Yellen, while 26 Republicans voted "no."
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