Senate Dems Not Sure They Can Get Enough Votes to Reconfirm Bernanke

By MichaelJames

Jan 21, 2010 9:50pm

Amidst the voter anger at Wall Street and Washington, D.C., ABC News has learned that the Senate Democratic leadership isn't sure there are enough votes to re-confirm Ben Bernanke for another term as chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Bernanke's term expires on Jan. 31.

The White House did not respond to many requests for comment.

"The American people are disgusted with the greed and recklessness of Wall Street," Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said in an interview with The Associated Press last month. "People are asking, 'Why didn't the Fed intervene at the appropriate time to stop the casino-type activities of large financial companies?'"

Sanders, Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and Sen. David Vitter, R-La., have all put holds on Bernanke's nomination, requiring 60 votes to proceed to a vote.

Voter anger is of heightened concern to members of Congress given the surprise victory of Sen.-elect Scott Brown, R-Mass., who rode a tide of voter discontent and economic anxiety to an upset victory in a special election earlier this week.

Last month, the Senate Banking Committee voted in favor of Bernanke's nomination by a vote of 16-7, not exactly a reflection of overwhelming positive feelings towards the Fed chair given the fact that he was first appointed in 2006 by President George W. Bush and nominated by President Obama for a second term last August.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., at one point was planning on scheduling a vote on Bernanke for Friday, but the Senate is currently in the midst of a debate over raising the debt limit and the vote has been pushed.

The majority leader met with Bernanke earlier today and issued a statement saying that he believes "more pressure needs to be applied to banks to lend money to small businesses and keep more Americans in their homes." Reid said that the "American people expect our economic leaders to keep Wall Street honest and level the playing field for middle class families, and I will continue to hold their feet to the fire to ensure this happens. As the Senate prepares to take up Chairman Bernanke's nomination, I look forward to hearing more from him about how he intends to address these issues.”

Roll Call reported this week that at the Senate Democratic caucus meeting on Wednesday, "according to senators, liberals spoke out against confirming Bernanke for a second term. Those liberals tried to make the case that the White House needs to put in place fresh economic advisers to focus on 'Main Street' issues like unemployment rather than Wall Street concerns. Moderates were more reserved, senators said, but have similarly withheld their support for Bernanke."

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