Accessibility links


US Central Bank Chief Reconfirmation Expected

  • Michael Bowman

The Obama administration and a top Republican lawmaker agree U.S. Central Bank Chief Ben Bernanke is likely to be confirmed for another term as the nation's top monetary official.

To some in Washington, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is the master economist whose aggressive actions and creative solutions prevented complete economic collapse in 2008, when major American banks, investment firms, insurance companies, and home mortgage giants were failing at a catastrophic pace. To others, he is the financial industry insider who facilitated reckless corporate risk-taking that placed the national and global economy in grave peril in the first place.

Days before the expiration of a four-year term as Fed chief, Bernanke faces growing opposition from Democratic and Republican senators who will vote on his reconfirmation.

Bernanke was originally nominated by former President George W. Bush in 2005. Last year, President Barack Obama backed Bernanke for a second term, and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs expressed optimism his tenure will be extended. "We believe he [Bernanke] will be confirmed. There is no doubt there is anger and frustration in this country about the direction of our economy, and about what has happened with excessive risk-taking by big banks, and the American people having to lend their hard-earned money to bail them out. I think now would be a particularly bad time to send a signal to the international community and to our overall financial system by playing politics in any way with this upcoming [reconfirmation] vote," he said.

Gibbs spoke on the "Fox News Sunday" television program.

Last week, U.S. markets slid sharply as several prominent senators from both major political parties announced their opposition to Bernanke's reconfirmation. Among those who say they will vote against the Fed chief is Texas Republican John Cornyn, who also appeared on "Fox News Sunday". "I think the Federal Reserve would benefit from a fresh start. I am not saying that Bernanke had not done a good job once the crisis was created. I think he has probably mitigated a lot of the harm that could have happened. But I think he should have seen it coming [anticipated the financial crisis]," he said.

In congressional testimony, Bernanke has placed much of the blame for the 2008 financial meltdown on lax governmental regulation of banks and other entities as authorized by Congress, rather than the monetary policy he oversaw.

Will opposition to Bernanke torpedo his reconfirmation as Fed chief? On this, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell concurs with the White House. "He [Bernanke] is going to have bipartisan support in the Senate, and I would anticipate he will be confirmed," he said.

McConnell, who spoke on NBC's "Meet The Press" program, declined to say how he will vote on Bernanke's reconfirmation.