Despite a rough end to his previous term, the Senate Banking Committee endorsed Ben Bernanke for another term as Federal Reserve chairman.
The committee in an executive session voted overwhelmingly in favor of his re-confirmation with a vote of 16-7. His current four-year term will be ending this January. After a confirmation vote from the committee, this paves the way for a confirmation vote from the Senate.
Among the dissenting votes are six of the ten Republican members of the committee. Bernanke, a Republican, received his initial nomination under the Bush administration. Only one Democrat opposed his nomination.
The intense debate from the committee signals what could be a narrow appointment from the Senate. The last highly debated Federal Reserve chair was Paul Volcker in the early 1980s.
Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) raises concerns over his past performance.
“The criticisms of the Federal Reserve chairmen have merit. The Federal Reserve failed and allowed much damage to fall on the average American. You can see it reflected in the lost sense of hope that many have felt. You cannot put a dollar sign on that,” he said.
He added that without Bernanke in this position, much of the mild success financially would not be in existence.
Much of the criticism about Bernanke’s confirmation also reflected general criticism of the Federal Reserve. One senator suggested it might not be the fault of Bernanke, but rather the fault of an agency set to perform ineffectively.
The most vicious criticism came from Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) whose 20-minute speech comparing his recent Time Magazine Person of the Year with that of Adolph Hitler’s and Joseph Stalin’s same title.
Bernanke needs a full 60 votes for be confirmed in the senate.
In addition to the debate over his past performance and mistakes, timing is also an issue. Senate will only be in session 12 days, Jan. 19-31 before the Federal Reserve vice chairman would take over the position.