Time's Person of the Year one moment; object of Senate scorn the other.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke faces a vote Thursday in the Senate Banking Committee on his nomination for another four-year term as head of the nation's central bank.
But on Wednesday, the same day Time magazine gave him its highest honor as Person of the Year, senators were lining up against Bernanke, blaming him for failing to anticipate the financial crisis and for approving massive bailouts to Wall Street's largest firms.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent liberal from Vermont, called him a "key architect of the Bush economy."
Sanders has placed a "hold" on the nomination, meaning it will require a super-majority of 60 votes to confirm him.
"Wall Street is very powerful," Sanders said Wednesday. "Bernanke is their guy and they want their guy to stay in office."
Bernanke's term ends Jan. 31 and unless Sanders relents a full Senate vote on his nomination is not expected until next month.The Fed chairman is still expected to have enough support to win in committee and ultimately in the full Senate.
The opposition to Bernanke comes from an odd coalition of liberals and conservatives _ one of those instances where the political spectrum is not linear but circular.
In addition to Sanders, his critics include conservative Republicans such as Sens. Jim Bunning of Kentucky and Jim DeMint of South Carolina. Bunning and DeMint sit on the Senate Banking Committee. On Wednesday, Sen. Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat and banking committee member, announced he, too, would vote against Bernanke. Merkley said that Bernanke, who served in the Bush administration and was appointed by Bush to the Fed, failed "to take the necessary precautionary steps that could have averted or mitigated financial collapse."
Even though Bernanke will likely be reappointed, he is up for a new term at the height of public antipathy toward the Fed. The House has already approved legislation calling for a full audit of the central bank and pending legislation would limit the Fed's regulatory authority.
Appearing at a press conference with Sanders, Robert Borosage, co-director of the liberal Campaign for America's Future, said: "Awarding Ben Bernanke man of the year as Time magazine has done is something like celebrating an arsonist for helping put out the fire that they just put a match to."