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Obama nominates two to Federal Reserve board

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama said Tuesday that he would nominate Jeremy C. Stein, a Harvard economist, and Jerome H. Powell, a former private equity executive, to fill the two vacant seats on the Federal Reserve's board.

The pairing of Stein, a Democrat, and Powell, a Republican, is a carefully weighted gesture, a pragmatic attempt to satisfy Senate Republicans who have repeatedly refused to allow votes on nominees for regulatory positions.

Not since 1988 has a president sought to add a member of the opposition party to the Fed's board, but the White House judged that its decision was the only practical alternative to leaving the positions unfilled for at least another year.

In announcing his choices, Obama lauded both men for "impressive knowledge of economic and monetary policy," and described them as "tremendously qualified."

Stein and Powell both are experts in the workings of financial markets, an important specialty as the Fed expands its regulatory responsibilities.

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Stein, 51, joined the Harvard faculty in 2000 after a decade at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned a doctorate in 1983. His experience is largely as a student of policy, although he worked for five months in early 2009 as an adviser to the Obama administration and the Treasury Department. He also served briefly on the staff of the Council of Economic Advisers in 1989 and 1990 under President George H.W. Bush.

His work has generally placed him in opposition to the view that prevailed at the Fed under its former chairman, Alan Greenspan, who argued that markets were largely self-regulating and that the government tended to do more harm than good.

Powell, 58, a visiting scholar at the Bipartisan Policy Center, worked for nearly a decade as a partner at the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm. He also served as Treasury under secretary for finance under President George H.W. Bush.

Powell described himself in a recent interview with Bloomberg Television as "by any fair reckoning a fiscal conservative," but he is known for taking independent positions on policy issues. He argued publicly earlier this year that the debt ceiling should be raised, warning Republicans against failing to do so.

Even if confirmed, the men are not expected to change the course of the Fed's monetary policy, according to independent analysts.

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