Senate panel vote next week on Bernanke nomination

AP News
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Posted: Dec 08, 2009 1:26 PM

A key Senate panel will vote next week on Ben Bernanke's nomination for a second term as Federal Reserve chairman.

The Senate Banking Committee on Dec. 17 will vote on Bernanke's nomination to run the nation's central bank for another four years, the panel's chairman announced Tuesday.

Although it appears that Bernanke has enough support to stay at the helm of the Fed, his handling of the worst financial and economic crises since the Great Depression has generated some controversy.

Bernanke's support of Wall Street bailouts and the discovery of hefty bonuses paid to employees of rescued firms, especially angered the American public and lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

Meanwhile, many ordinary people continue to suffer from the sting of high unemployment, stagnant incomes, record home foreclosures and hard-to-get credit.

Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., chairman of the Banking Committee, supports giving Bernanke a second term, even as he wants to curtail the Fed's power.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, said he's so upset about the bailouts he plans to try to block Bernanke's nomination by putting a "hold" on it when it reaches the Senate floor. Essentially that means the Senate would need 60 votes to approve the nomination, rather than a simple majority. That could slow the approval process but is unlikely to torpedo it.

Last week, two members of the banking committee also said they'll oppose Bernanke's nomination: Jim Bunning, R-Ky., the only senator who voted against Bernanke's confirmation four years ago, and Jim DeMint, R-S.C. Both were irked by the bailouts, regulatory lapses by the Fed that contributed to the crisis, and what they believe is a lack of openness and accountability at the Fed.

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Bernanke has defended his record, saying that without aggressive action, the Great Recession could have turned into a second Great Depression. Even critics give him credit for unconventional and bold thinking that averted an even worse outcome.

President Barack Obama says Bernanke, 55, has the skills to lead the country from recession into a lasting recovery.

Bernanke's term expires on Jan. 31. He was first tapped to run the Fed by President George W. Bush. Before taking over in February 2006, Bernanke had served as Bush's top economic adviser and was a Fed member when Alan Greenspan was chairman.

Most of his professional life, however, was spent in academia, including teaching economics at Princeton for 17 years.