Key senators assure Obama that embattled Bernanke will win second term as Fed chairman

By Jeannine Aversa, AP
Saturday, January 23, 2010

Obama, Dodd, Gregg predict Bernanke wins 2nd term

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama phoned Senate allies Saturday as two key senators predicted that embattled Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will be confirmed for a second term.

Obama made calls from the White House to members of the Senate leadership and others and was assured Bernanke would win confirmation, a senior White House official told The Associated Press. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private phone calls.

If Bernanke’s nomination were derailed it would send tremors through Wall Street, which in turn could hobble an already fragile economic recovery and slow any comeback in the ailing jobs market. The mounting opposition to Bernanke was one of the factors worrying investors as the stock market suffered its worst setback in more than 10 months this week, losing 552 points from Wednesday to Friday.

Bernanke is widely credited with helping to prevent the Great Recession from turning into a second Great Depression. But his support of Wall Street bailouts has angered Americans who are struggling with double-digit unemployment and soaring home foreclosures.

Bernanke has become the focus of increased criticism since Republican Scott Brown won a Senate seat in an upset election in Massachusetts this past week.

The Senate is scheduled to vote on the Bernanke confirmation by the end of this coming week, said Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Meanwhile, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and former Senate Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg, R-N.H., said in a statement Saturday that Bernanke is the right person to help guide the economy back from the worst recession since the 1930s.

Two other Democrats who had remained quiet about their intentions, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, and the No. 2 Senate Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois, said Saturday that they will support him. Bernanke should not be the scapegoat for systemic failings, Kerry said.

Bernanke’s term expires Jan. 31.

Already four Senate Democrats have said they would vote against the Fed chairman.

Bernanke has become the focus of increased criticism since Republican Scott Brown won a Senate seat in an upset election in Massachusetts this past week.

Dodd and Gregg — neither seeking re-election in November — said that “based on our discussions with our colleagues, we are very confident” that Bernanke will win confirmation by the Senate for another term.

“Bernanke has done an excellent job responding to one of the most significant financial crises our country has ever encountered,” the two senators said. “We support his nomination because he is the right leader to guide the Federal Reserve in this recovering economy.”

The Fed chief’s supporters need 60 votes to prevent opponents from blocking confirmation. Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent liberal from Vermont, and Republican senators Jim Bunning of Kentucky, Jim DeMint of South Carolina and David Vitter of Louisiana are spearheading a campaign to block Bernanke’s confirmation.

On Friday, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel phoned senators urging support of Bernanke. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner also made calls to lawmakers, officials said.


Associated Press writer Philip Elliott contributed to this report.

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