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Fed's Powell heads to Senate with renomination, policy, inflation as backdrop

FILE PHOTO: The Federal Reserve Board building on Constitution Avenue is pictured in Washington, U.S., March 27, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell appears before the Senate Banking Committee Thursday in a hearing where he is likely to be grilled again about higher than expected inflation, this time by lawmakers key to vetting his possible renomination.

The hearing begins at 9:30 a.m. ET (1330 GMT), and Powell is expected to deliver the same opening statement as he did Wednesday to the House Financial Services Committee.

Powell at that hearing pledged “powerful support” to complete the U.S. economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, an indication he sees no need to rush the Fed’s eventual shift to post-pandemic policy and withdraw support from the economy because of a recent jump in inflation.

But he faced sharp questions from Republican lawmakers in particular about the recent rise in prices and whether it would, as the Fed expects, ease on its own, while Democrats urged him to remain committed to regaining as many jobs as possible as the economy heals from the pandemic.

That dynamic is likely to repeat itself today, with the added backdrop of both Powell’s possible renomination and his comparatively deep familiarity with the members of the banking panel.

Powell has made a point of building relationships on Capitol Hill, and frequently refers to lawmakers as the Fed’s ultimate bosses. The central bank is subject to regular oversight hearings before Congress, and implements the Federal Reserve Act in which Congress established the central bank’s goals of maximum employment and stable prices.

A Reuters analysis of Powell’s meeting calendar shows that in his 3-1/2 years as Fed chair he has met personally with every current member of the banking committee, splitting the meetings evenly between Democrats and Republicans. He has spent eight hours just with current committee chair Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat of Ohio.

His current term expires early next year. If President Joe Biden decides to reappoint him, as many expect, he would need to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, with hearings first before the banking committee.

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