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Key Republican says supports Yellen for Fed chair

Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) speaks to reporters during the 14th day of the partial government shut down in Washington on October 14, 2013. REU
Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) speaks to reporters during the 14th day of the partial government shut down in Washington on October 14, 2013. REU

By David Lawder and Thomas Ferraro

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Janet Yellen picked up some more U.S. Senate support Wednesday on the eve of a vote in the Senate Banking Committee that is expected to approve her nomination to lead the U.S. Federal Reserve.

Bob Corker, a Tennesee Republican and an influential member of the committee, declared his support Wednesday while three other Republicans indicated they were inclined to back her.

Corker said he would set aside his reservations because he believed Yellen will bring more transparency to the U.S. central bank and has pledged to reduce bond buying, once economic data support such a move.

"In the end, I do believe she has the qualifications necessary to be the Fed chairman and plan to support her nomination," said Corker, who voted against Yellen's nomination as Fed vice chair in 2010.

Corker's support could help persuade a handful of other Senate Republicans to drop their opposition.

President Barack Obama nominated Yellen to replace Ben Bernanke as chair of the U.S. central bank when his term expires on January 31. The committee is set to vote at 10:00 a.m. (1500 GMT) on Thursday on whether to send her name to the full Senate for consideration.

With Obama's Democrats controlling 12 of the 22 seats on the banking panel, and 55 seats in the Senate, a relatively smooth confirmation process had always looked likely.

She need only secure votes from five Republicans to overcome Senate procedural hurdles and is well on the way to that goal.

Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul, one of the Fed's harshest critics, conceded that that he would not be able to block her Senate confirmation.

Paul told Reuters TV said he would "slow down" the nomination "as much as possible" in a bid to get a Senate vote on his stalled bill to require greater congressional oversight of the Fed, including of its monetary policy.

But Paul admitted, "in all likelihood, they (Yellen backers) will probably" will get the 60 votes needed to clear procedural roadblocks and obtain a confirmation vote.

Paul said, "I'm not a big fan of easy money policy. I think Bernanke's policy has been too easy and I think Yellen will have an easier money policy."

"I'm not a big fan of hers," Paul said. "But at the same time, this is about more than just her. It is about if the Federal Reserve should get oversight and scrutiny by Congress."

Republicans Senator Susan Collins of Maine has told reporters that she is inclined to support the nomination, and aide to Republicans Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said they are similarly inclined.

Also, an aide for Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah said he was always predisposed to give deference to the White House on nominations, but he had not publicly declared how he would vote this time.

Few senators have publicly declared their definitive voting intentions.

A second Republican on the Senate Banking Panel, Mike Johanns of Nebraska, said on Wednesday he would vote against Yellen's nomination as a protest of the Fed's easy money policies, which he compared to a "sugar-high."

"I cannot support Ms. Yellen's nomination because, given many opportunities, she never did distance herself from these easy-money policies," he said in a statement.

(Additional reporting by Alister Bull; Editing by Vicki Allen, David Brunnstrom and Bob Burgdorfer)

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