- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 17, 2009

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, fresh off this week’s honor of being named Time magazine’s “Person of the Year,” is expected to win enough support in the Senate to keep his job for another 4-year term.

But a vote Thursday in the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs on whether to send Mr. Bernanke’s renomination to the full Senate for a final vote will be anything but unanimous, as some senators are ready to tee off with the man they say was chiefly responsible for aiding and abetting last year’s near epic collapse of Wall Street.

“I find it ironic that a man who has spent the last year rewarding others for failure is now being named ‘Person of the Year’ for his failures,” said Sen. Jim Bunning, Kentucky Republican and the committee’s biggest critic of Mr. Bernanke.

“If Time magazine is in the business of rewarding failure, Ben Bernanke is their man - he has certainly excelled at that.”

The Fed chairman’s path to renomination could get even rockier in the full Senate.

Mr. Bunning has said he would seek to stop the Senate from confirming Mr. Bernanke through a “hold” procedure. The 100-member Senate would need 60 votes - not the usual 50 - to override the block and move forward with a final vote on the nomination.

Although the maneuver is not expected to derail Mr. Bernanke’s confirmation, it could slow down the process.

Mr. Bernanke’s term expires early next year.

Another resonant Bernanke critic, Sen. Bernard Sanders, a Vermont independent who isn’t a banking committee member, also said he will place a hold on the chairman’s renomination.

“Perhaps more than anyone else in the world, Chairman Bernanke was in a position to diagnose and correct the impending financial disaster that was taking place right in front of him,” Mr. Sanders said.

“Tragically, not only did he fail to prevent the economic collapse that we have experienced, he did not even warn the American people that it was coming until it was too late.”

But many experts say that the anger generated on Capitol Hill toward Mr. Bernanke - one of the lead architects of the unpopular $700 billion Wall Street program - is nothing more than hot air designed to score political points against a publicly unpopular figure.

“Tomorrow’s a show, especially with Jim Bunning - Jim Bunning still thinks he’s pitching for the Phillies,” said Peter Morici, a University of Maryland business professor and former chief economist at the U.S. International Trade Commission. “It’s hard to take Jim Bunning seriously.”

Mr. Morici said cooler heads will prevail in the Senate in regard to Mr. Bernanke’s renomination.

“They’ll broker him 60 votes one way or another, unless something else happens,” he said.

Scott Talbott, a spokesman with the Financial Services Roundtable, which represents some of the nation’s biggest financial-services firms, agreed that Mr. Bernanke isn’t in danger of being forced out of his job.

“He’s qualified for the job. Secondly, who else wants it?” Mr. Talbott said. “He’s becoming a lightning rod, but in the end, I expect the Senate to confirm him.”

Mr. Bernanke has vigorously defended his handling of last year’s near meltdown of the economy, telling the Senate committee two weeks ago that his actions helped avert an even greater crisis.

The nation’s central banker assured lawmakers that his agency has the necessary tools to further repair the still wobbly economy - a push-back at congressional proposals to curtail the Federal Reserve’s regulatory powers.

“We played a central role in efforts to quell the financial turmoil,” he told a Senate banking committee hearing.

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