WASHINGTON - Lawrence Summers, who was considered the leading candidate to succeed Ben Bernanke as Federal Reserve chairman, has withdrawn from consideration, the White House said Sunday.
Summers' withdrawal follows growing resistance from critics, including some members of the Senate committee that would need to approve his nomination. His exit could open the door for his leading rival for the post, Janet Yellen, the Fed's vice chair. If chosen by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate, Yellen would become the first woman to lead the Fed.
In a statement, Obama said he had accepted Summers' decision.
"Larry was a critical member of my team as we faced down the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and it was in no small part because of his expertise, wisdom and leadership that we wrestled the economy back to growth and made the kind of progress we are seeing today," Obama said.
As director of the National Economic Council, Summers oversaw the administration's response to the economic and financial crisis early in Obama's first term.
Yet Summers faced strenuous opposition from some Democrats, including members of the Senate Banking Committee. Summers alluded to the opposition to his candidacy in a letter he sent Sunday to Obama to formally withdraw from consideration.
"I have reluctantly concluded that any possible confirmation process for me would be acrimonious and would not serve the interests of the Federal Reserve, the administration or ultimately, the interests of the nation's ongoing economic recovery," Summers wrote.
Summers' ascent to the top of the list to succeed Bernanke rankled both opponents of the president as well as some liberal supporters. He has alienated colleagues in the past with a brusque and at times domineering style. Unlike Bernanke, he's not been known as a consensus-builder -- one reason some critics had opposed his nomination.
He was also seen as having been too cozy with Wall Street and was criticized for critical comments he made about women and math and science.
Shaunna Thomas, co-founder of the women's rights group UltraViolet, welcomed Summers' withdrawal, saying she hopes it serves as "a reminder to all that sexism has no place anywhere in society and certainly not in the highest levels of our government."
Thomas called on Obama to nominate Yellen.
Obama had vigorously defended Summers in recent weeks, both in public comments and in closed-door meetings with lawmakers.
"I will always be grateful to Larry for his tireless work and service on behalf of his country, and I look forward to continuing to seek his guidance and counsel in the future," Obama said Sunday.
The president has been facing trouble with his liberal base on other fronts this year, including revelations about the National Security Agency's spying programs and his call for a military strike against Syria.
Summers' decision could make Yellen the leading candidate to replace Bernanke. Yellen, who became a member of the Fed's board of governors in 1994, would be the first woman to run the Fed.
Obama is expected to announce his nomination as early as this month. Bernanke's term ends Jan. 31, 2014.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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