After Magazine Honor, Bernanke to Face Critics

Posted December 16, 2009 at 6:44pm

Correction Appended

Time’s “Person of the Year— can expect plenty of abuse today in the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, but it appears Ben Bernanke is well on his way to another term as Federal Reserve chairman.

“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,— Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) said after Time magazine’s announcement of Bernanke’s honor, perhaps previewing more fiery remarks that will be delivered before the Banking panel today.

Bunning and Republican Sens. Jim DeMint (S.C.) and David Vitter (La.), who all sit on the Banking Committee, have pledged to block Bernanke’s nomination to another four-year term from reaching the floor. But the harsh criticism and fierce opposition is not limited to the conservative trio: Liberal Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) announced Wednesday that he would also vote against Bernanke in committee.

Bernanke “failed to recognize or remedy the factors that paved the road to this dark and difficult recession,— Merkley said in a statement, unfazed by Bernanke’s front-cover coronation. “Following our economic collapse, it is also apparent that he has not changed his overall approach to prioritizing Wall Street over American families.—

Merkley’s measured tone was quickly upstaged by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who though not a Banking Committee member has still emerged as Bernanke’s biggest detractor.

“The issue is — has he been successful in doing what his job requires him to do?— Sanders asked during a press conference. “The answer is ‘no.’—

Noting the ideological range of opponents to Bernanke’s nomination, Sanders, the Senate’s most liberal Member, declared: “Sometimes for different reasons you have people from the left and people on the right come together, which makes interesting bedfellows.—

Sanders later added, “We’re going to do everything we can to rally the grass-roots and put pressure on our Senate colleagues— to vote against Bernanke’s nomination to a second term atop the Fed.

Appointed in 2005 by President George W. Bush to serve as chief of the Fed, Bernanke’s term expires on Jan. 31, 2010. President Barack Obama nominated Bernanke to a second term over the summer.

Bernanke’s nomination drew bipartisan disdain just a few weeks ago, when the Fed chief was grilled during a confirmation hearing before the Banking panel on monetary policy, the Fed’s oversight of the banking industry and whether the institution should be regularly audited by Congress to prevent the kind of financial meltdown that rocked the country last year.

Sanders is the chief sponsor of legislation that would give the Government Accountability Office audit power over the Fed. The bill has drawn a wide range of co-sponsors including Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).

Today’s committee vote comes as Banking Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) is trying to reach a bipartisan agreement on a massive financial regulatory reform bill. As he tried to woo Republicans into supporting that package Wednesday, Dodd said he was certain the committee would rally behind Bernanke.

Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), a Bernanke supporter, said the Time magazine honor was well-earned. “Well it’s certainly appropriate. He basically saved the nation from a great depression,— Gregg said. “It’s one of the few times I agree with Time magazine.—Bottom of story:

Correction: Dec. 17, 2009

The article misstated the term of the Federal Reserve chairman. Ben Bernanke was nominated to a second four-year term.