WASHINGTON President Barack Obama will nominate Federal Reserve Governor Sarah Bloom Raskin to be the U.S. Treasury Department's No. 2 official, the White House said on Wednesday.
If confirmed by the Senate, Raskin, 52, would become the highest-ranking woman in the department's history. She would replace Neal Wolin, who has been deputy treasury secretary since 2009 and is stepping down in August.
Obama has been criticized for not appointing more women to top administration posts. Some Senate Democrats have urged him to appoint Janet Yellen as the first female head of the Federal Reserve when Ben Bernanke steps down, widely expected to occur in January.
Raskin, a former Maryland banking regulator, has served on the U.S. central bank's board since October 2010 after being nominated by Obama. She would bring bank regulatory experience to the job to complement the budgetary expertise of Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.
At the Fed, Raskin was particularly outspoken about the need for mortgage servicers to end illegal foreclosure practices and fix other problems in their business. She was open to making these banks write down loan principal amounts for some borrowers as part of any regulatory enforcement action.
Lew pushed Raskin as his ideal deputy, given her management and banking experience, according to a source familiar with the matter.
"Sarah has a deep understanding of banking and financial regulatory issues as well as a firm grasp of how to run large, complex organizations," Lew said in a statement. "I know she will live up to the high standard set by Neal Wolin and build on his outstanding legacy."
Wolin, 51, has been a key behind-the-curtains figure, best known for helping lead the push for the Dodd-Frank financial reform law and for overseeing implementation of the new rules it put in place.
Raskin's Senate confirmation to the Fed board and her earlier work as an aide to the Senate Banking Committee could help smooth her confirmation.
If Raskin moves to the Treasury Department, it would open a second vacancy on the seven-person Fed board. Fed Governor Elizabeth Duke, another banking expert, said earlier this month she was stepping down on August 31.
Bernanke's departure next year would add another vacancy. (Reporting by Anna Yukhananov and Mark Felsenthal; Editing by Eric Beech and Christopher Wilson)