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Bernanke Nomination Hanging in the Balance

Ben Bernanke’s nomination to serve a second term as chairman of the Federal Reserve appears to be in peril. Bernanke is up for a second term at the Fed; his current term expires in 10 days on Jan. 31. A handful of Senators had previously threatened to filibuster the nomination, but this week the number of opposing lawmakers appeared to grow, further dimming his prospects for installment.“I think it’s worthy of a review,” said Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), who is undecided. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) met with Bernanke on Thursday, one day after Democrats voiced concerns during their weekly policy luncheon about the nomination. In a statement after his meeting with the Fed chairman, Reid was coy, saying the two met “to discuss the best ways to strengthen and stabilize our economy.”“The American people expect our economic leaders to keep Wall Street honest and level the playing field for middle-class families, and I will continue to hold their feet to the fire to ensure this happens,” Reid said. “As the Senate prepares to take up Chairman Bernanke's nomination, I look forward to hearing more from him about how he intends to address these issues.” At Wednesday’s Democratic caucus meeting, according to Senators, liberals spoke out against confirming Bernanke for a second term. Those liberals tried to make the case that the White House needs to put in place fresh economic advisers to focus on “Main Street” issues like unemployment rather than Wall Street concerns. Moderates were more reserved, Senators said, but have similarly withheld their support for Bernanke. “I’m looking at both sides of the argument, but I haven’t made any decisions,” Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said Thursday. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) was more direct when asked whether he reached a decision on the nomination: “Not finally, but not leaning favorably.” The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee approved Bernanke’s nomination 16-7 last month, a tepid vote for the man first appointed by President George W. Bush and renominated by President Barack Obama for another four-year term. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) was the only Democrat to vote against Bernanke in committee, but Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said during that Dec. 17 vote that, “I’m not certain yet what I’ll do on the Senate floor.”Bernanke’s nomination is already the subject of holds by GOP Sens. Jim Bunning (Ky.), Jim DeMint (S.C.) and David Vitter (La.), as well as Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), who caucuses with the Democrats. Reid will likely have to file a procedural motion to overcome the holds, a move that will require 60 votes. But with support among Democrats for Bernanke seeming to wane, it’s unclear whether Reid can meet that mark. Sen. Ted Kaufman (D-Del.) predicted that Members will reach their decisions on how to vote in the coming days. “It’s incredible how difficult it is for people to focus on something before it comes into view,” said Kaufman, who has not determined how he will vote. “I think Members are back and they’re doing their due diligence.”

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