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Obama confident Bernanke will return

Embattled Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will garner enough votes to win US Senate confirmation for a second term despite opposition from key Democrats, President Barack Obama’s top adviser predicted.


“The president is very confident that the chairman will be confirmed,” said adviser David Axelrod, who praised Bernanke’s handling of the recent global economic meltdown.

“Chairman Bernanke offered very strong and steady leadership during this crisis, without which we… may have slipped into the abyss. And we are still in a fragile state, although the economy is growing,” Axelrod told CNN’s “State of the Union” television program.

Several US senators have vowed to filibuster the nomination which needs 60 votes for approval. Most of the Senate’s 40 Republicans are expected to vote against Bernanke, making it all the more important for Bernanke to sew up the support of Democrats.

But last week, two senior Senate Democrats, Barbara Boxer and Russell Feingold, announced that they would vote against Bernanke after his first term ends on January 31, criticizing him for being too closely allied with Wall Street.

Senators, particularly those facing re-election this year, also are concerned about voter anger about the role of the Fed in failing to prevent the deep recession and then in helping to engineer the bailouts of large financial companies.

The growing tide against Bernanke has imperilled the Fed chairman, but a top White House aide voiced praise of Bernanke’s stewardship of US monetary policy and said he needs another term as the country’s banker to ensure that a nascent economic recovery continues on track.

“There is a great deal of concern relative to the financial sector. And understand that we need his leadership,” Axelrod said.

President Barack Obama’s administration has been scrambling to save his beleaguered Fed nominee — first installed by Obama’s predecessor George W. Bush in February 2006 — in the face of opposition from members of his own Democratic party.

McCain ‘leaning against’ Bernanke

Senator John McCain, Obama’s Republican rival in the 2008 presidential race, said he was “leaning against” supporting Bernanke, claiming that “his policies were partially responsible for the meltdown that we experienced.”

“Chairman Bernanke was in charge when we hit the iceberg,” McCain told CBS program “Face the Nation.”

Another top Republican, Senator John Cornyn, said he was certain he would not vote to approve another term for the Fed chair.

“I think Ben Bernanke is a brilliant and an honourable man, but one who has presided over what is a crisis of confidence of the American people due to a lack of transparency and accountability with regard to the bailouts and other activities by the Federal Reserve,” he told the Fox News Sunday program.

“So, regretfully, I will vote ‘no’ on his confirmation — I think they need a fresh start,” the Texas Republican said.

Democrat Boxer — on the other end of the political spectrum from the pro-business, conservative McCain and Cornyn — said on Friday that she too objects to Bernanke’s return, but for quite different reasons.

“It is time for Main Street to have a champion at the Fed…. Our next Federal Reserve chairman must represent a clean break from the failed policies of the past.”

Ramped up Democratic opposition to a second term for Bernanke underscores a major populist shift in the political landscape since Republicans won a stunning upset last week in the Massachusetts election for a US Senate seat, ending the 60-seat Democratic supermajority in the chamber.

But analysts have warned that tossing out Bernanke could trigger renewed turmoil in financial markets, after speculation that his nomination could be rejected contributed to a sharp stock market drop last week.

Time magazine named Bernanke its 2009 “Person of the Year” in December, crediting him with helping guide the United States through financial turmoil.

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