WASHINGTON — Seeking to capitalize on the political fallout from the $2 billion loss at JPMorgan Chase, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pressed ahead Tuesday toward votes on President Obama's two nominees to the Federal Reserve Board.
Reid's actions push the Senate toward a vote Thursday on whether to consider the nominations of Jerome Powell and Jeremy Stein. At that point, 60 votes will be needed to move forward with a debate on the nominees.
"We've been waiting months and months. It's important we have a fully functioning Fed," the Nevada Democrat told reporters Tuesday.
Reid said that the Fed is responsible for drawing up the rules for firms like JPMorgan Chase, which he accused of "betting like you would do at the craps table in Las Vegas."
"And they bet the wrong way. And that's fine if they did it with their own money, but the problem is, the way Wall Street's been working, is that heads they win, tails we lose," Reid said.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested that the nominations are likely to pass the Senate when they come to a vote.
"I haven't looked carefully at it, but my impression is that there is bipartisan support. One of the nominees is a Republican," McConnell told reporters.
The two nominations were approved in March by the Senate Banking Committee, but Republican Sens. David Vitter and Jim Demint, who did not attend the Banking Committee session, nonetheless registered objections.
Vitter confirmed to the Wall Street Journal last week that he has been blocking the nominations. He cited concerns with what he called "the Fed's activist, easy-money policies" and worries that the two nominees' views are too close to those of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke.
Vitter also said that he was facing pressure from Wall Street firms to relent and allow the nominations to move forward, but he vowed to continue his opposition.
Under Senate rules, a single senator can hold up business until 60 votes override the objection.
Powell, a visiting scholar at the Bipartisan Policy Center who served as a Treasury undersecretary in the first Bush administration, would fill the board seat vacated by Frederic Mishkin. That term ends in 2014.
Stein, a Harvard economics professor who previously served in the Obama administration, has been nominated to fill the seat vacated by Kevin Warsh. His term would end in 2018.