- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Senate panel on Thursday endorsed Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke for a second four-year term, setting up a final vote in the full Senate, which is expected to confirm his renomination in the coming weeks.

The Senate Banking Committee voted 16-7 to send Mr. Bernanke’s nomination to the full Senate. Six Republicans and one Democrat voted against the chairman’s renomination.

The panel’s chairman, Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, said Mr. Bernanke’s “wise leadership” was needed to help guide the economy back to health.

But Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, the lone Democratic dissenter, said Mr. Bernanke failed to take the precautionary steps that could have averted or mitigated last year’s near collapse of the nation’s financial system.

“For too many years, federal regulators turned a blind eye to signs of an impending financial crisis,” Mr. Merkley said. “We need economic leaders who understand that the ultimate goal of economic policies and the key to meaningful economic recovery should be financially successful families, not oversized Wall Street profits.”

The Fed chairman’s loudest critic on the panel, Sen. Jim Bunning, Kentucky Republican, said Mr. Bernanke was too beholden to “his fat-cat buddies on Wall Street.”

“While I do believe Ben Bernanke is a very good human being, he doesn’t have a clue what he is doing as chairman of the Federal Reserve,” Mr. Bunning said.

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.

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

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.

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