Bernanke confirmation whip count

by: Chris Bowers

Wed Dec 02, 2009 at 17:37


Ben Bernake's current term as chair of the Federal Reserve ends on January 31st, 2010.  As such, the Obama administration and Senate are looking to reconfirm him, even though there is no good reason to do so.

The Federal Reserve Act dictates that one of the founding directives of the Federal Reserve is to "promote effectively the goals of maximum employment."  However, with a current U3 unemployment rate of 10.2%, it is obvious to everyone in the country that we do not have maximum employment.

The Federal Reserve, under Bernanke, could be taking steps to increase employment.  One possible means would be through a program to just start lending money directly to small businesses, such as the one proposed by Senator Mark Warner.  However, the Fed hasn't done anything like this, even as it has given over $2,000,000,000,000 in loans to Wall Street financial firms.

This is outrageous, and flies in the face of the Federal Reserves legal mission.  Senator Sheldon Whitehouse put it in some colorful terms:

Before voting to confirm Bernanke, Whitehouse told HuffPost he wants to hear "[t]hat they're willing to take their eyes off an exclusive gaze on the welfare of Wall Street and start giving a red hot damn about the American public."

In response to the calls for the Fed to do something about unemployment, Bush-appointed Bernnake has simply thrown his hands up into the air, and claimed that there is nothing he can do.  That is simply not true, even if Bernanke thinks that it is.

Even as the country sinks deeper into unemployment, and even Congress prepares a jobs bill that will cost less than one-tenth of the money Bernanke has loaned to Wall Street (loans which he not disclosed the details of), the Senate still appears ready to reconfirm Bernanke as chair of the Federal Reserve.  Because he has done such an awesome job of promoting maximum employment, I guess.

Even though some news outlets are reporting that Bernanke has the votes, many of those votes are soft and can potentially be changed if a groundswell of opposition to Bernanke takes root.  On that front, the PCCC and the Campaign for America's Future have launched activist efforts to start whipping up opposition.  In an interesting trans-partisan alliance, libertarian organizations such as The Campaign for Liberty have joined in.  An effort is underway to stop Bernanke, and I encourage you to take part in it.

The start of Bernanke's reconfirmation process is tomorrow, with a hearing in the Senate Banking committee.  In preparing for the hearing, in the extended entry I provide a whip count of the 23 Senators on the committee, looking at where each stands on reconfirming Bernanke.

More in the extended entry.

Chris Bowers :: Bernanke confirmation whip count
Senate Banking Committee Bernanke whip count

Definite no: 1
Lean no: 3
No indication: 5
Lean yes: 8
Definite yes: 6

Definite no: 1

  • Jim Bunning (R-KY):

    Jim Bunning, the Kentucky Republican who was the only senator to oppose Bernanke's first nomination in 2005, hasn't changed his views.

    'His job rating would be zero minus F,' Bunning said in an interview yesterday. 'He has catered to the big banks, to the Wall Street elitists, to every major money concern in the country and in the world.'

    It is possible that Bunning, or Bernie Sanders (who is also opposed to Bernanke), will place a "hold" on the nomination.  Such a procedural move would at least delay a vote on Bernake, which would provide opponents of his reconfirmation time to organize.  For more details on what a "hold" is, check Tom Coburn's website (no one places more holds than Coburn).

Lean no: 3

  • Jim DeMint (R-SC):

    "He's [Bernanke's] going to face some tough questions because he's got a lot to answer for," leading Fed critic Sen. Jim DeMint said through a spokesman. "The Fed's mission is to guard the value of the dollar and to focus on employment, and right now their track record is looking very poor."

  • Richard Shelby (R-AL):

    Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the top Republican on the Banking committee, would not say how he would vote on Bernanke's nomination, only encouraging reporters to stay tuned for the chairman's hearing this week.

    "I used to be a big defender of the Fed," he said, adding he believes the institution has "utterly failed" in its role for regulating financial institutions."

  • David Vitter (R-LA): As a support of auditing the Fed, everything I have heard is that Vitter is a no--and is even possibly willing to put a hold on Bernake.  Still, lacking a public statement to that effect, I won't put him in the "definite no" category.

No indication:  5

  • Mike Crapo (R-ID): Praised Bernanke's nomination in 2005, but no word on where he stands now.

  • Herb Kohl (D-WI)

    Three said they're undecided, including Wisconsin's Herb Kohl, Jon Tester of Montana and Jeff Merkley of Oregon.

  • Kay Baily Hutchinson (R-TX): I can't find any indication on Hutchison, one way or the other.

  • Jeff Merkley:

    Three said they're undecided, including Wisconsin's Herb Kohl, Jon Tester of Montana and Jeff Merkley of Oregon.

  • Jon Tester:

    Three said they're undecided, including Wisconsin's Herb Kohl, Jon Tester of Montana and Jeff Merkley of Oregon.

Lean Yes:  8

  • Michael Bennet (D-CO):

    Bennet insisted he supports Democrat Senator Chris Dodd's tough Wall Street reform bill. However, he also said he will probably vote to re-appoint Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, despite Bernanke's involvement in the Wall Street meltdown.

  • Robert Bennett (R-UT)

    Utah's Robert Bennett said he'll probably vote in favor

  • Sherrod Brown (D-OH):

    "He's been far from perfect," Senator Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, said in an interview yesterday. "He was not quick enough responding last year to many of these issues that we care about, particularly in housing. I want him to focus on jobs. But I think he's generally done a decent job."

  • Tom Carper (D-DE):

    "Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) all said they'd wait until hearing from Bernanke."

  • Bob Corker (R-TN)

    Corker noted that he leans toward supporting a second term for the Fed chairman, who was nominated in August to a second term by President Barack Obama, but acknowledged gripes toward the Fed chairman on the left and the right."

  • Chris Dodd (D-CT, chair):

    T'm inclined to be supportive. I think he's done a far better job in the last couple of years than he did initially.

  • Charles Schumer (D-NY):

    Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) all said they'd wait until hearing from Bernanke.

  • Mark Warner (D-VA): Over email, a spokesman for Mark Warner told me "Senator Warner is inclined to be supportive of Bernanke's reappointment, but he's certainly not a fan of expanding the role or the power of the Fed as part of financial re-reg."

Definite Yes: 5


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Sanders isn't on the Banking Committee (4.00 / 1)
I realize he could be important overall, but you have him under a list of Banking Committee members.

thank you (0.00 / 0)
Cleaned up the error.

[ Parent ]
It's a little bit sad (4.00 / 1)
That virtually the same critique here against Bernanke is the same one conservatives use against the stimulus. And keep in mind that inflation, not unemployment, is the Fed's main issue.

Two things (4.00 / 2)
1) What do you mean? How is this argument similar to anything conservatives have said about the stimulus?

2) The Fed has several jobs, one of which is combating unemployment.
And right now, there is no inflation. We have a lot of wiggle room to deal with unemployment, and Bernake is refusing to.


[ Parent ]
Alrighty (4.00 / 1)
1)
"The Federal Reserve Act dictates that one of the founding directives of the Federal Reserve is to "promote effectively the goals of maximum employment."  However, with a current U3 unemployment rate of 10.2%, it is obvious to everyone in the country that we do not have maximum employment."

I simply find blaming the Fed for lack of employment is really missing both the main purpose of the Fed (since 1981) and reality that most of the Fed's tools are already used up. Saying that Bernanke has failed employment since we're losing jobs (despite that Bernanke came in after the sub-prime lending mess had already occurred) is similar to conservatives saying the stimulus hasn't worked because jobs aren't being created.

2) The primary goal is for inflation to be between 1-2%, what we were facing this time was a threat of deflation, to which the Fed's response was a zero-bound interest rate. Afterwards, there's not a whole lot monetary policy can do to curb unemployment.

I do not like the Fed hate going on these days, both from the right and left.


[ Parent ]
What happened in 1981 that you think (0.00 / 0)
changed "the main purpose of the Fed", away from the statutory requirements of the legislation that creates it?  Was there legislation enacted that year? A phantom constitutional amendment?  Because what you seem to be suggesting is that in 1981, the Fed stopped complying with its statutory mandate and that in doing so, that overrode its statutory mandate.

That's not how it works.

Unless "the primary goal for inflation" of 1-2% is a legislative mandate, it must yield to things that are part of the legislative mandate.

That's not Fed hating, it's making sure an agency of the Federal government operates within the limits of the law.


Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.


[ Parent ]
Please provide a link (4.00 / 1)
to when conservatives demanded government act to provide full employment.

Why do you think that one of the Fed's statutory requirements is more important than another one of its statutory requirements?  Chris is citing the text of a law - what are you parrying with?

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.


[ Parent ]
Why is Sherrod Brown .. (0.00 / 0)
supporting "B-52" Ben?  We all know that Warner .. Schumer and Carper will all vote for Bernanke .. they are just doing kabuki

The less you know (0.00 / 0)
the more you have to trust.

That's why.


[ Parent ]
shelby (0.00 / 0)
"I used to be a big defender of the Fed," he said, adding he believes the institution has "utterly failed" in its role for regulating financial institutions."

shelby also voted no on the glass-steagall repeal

the guy believes in regul...what's that? he actually voted yes? and you have a link?

http://www.govtrack.us/congres...

oh boy, oh boy, oh boy


You do know .. (0.00 / 0)
that Shelby used to be a Democrat .. right .. granted he was a Dixiecrat ... but still .. yeah .. he's a scumbag .. but if he can help us defeat "B-52" Ben .. I'm all for it

[ Parent ]
Chris: "nothing he can do. That is simply not true" Really? (0.00 / 0)
I read the Yglesias story you linked to. And it boils down to that Matt admits the only things Bernanke could do is make the "Fed to change its approach (attempt to alter expectations of growth and inflation, try to get banks to reduce excess reserves, etc.) and the other would be for George W. Bush's top economic adviser and designated Federal Reserve Chairman to say he's done all he can and advises more aggressive congressional action."

As for the first point, the Fed influences the banks through it's rates policy. But the rates are already at the bare minimum now. so, with that instrument you can't get the financial sector into putting more money into the economy anymore, so that's not really a valid argument. And the second point says that Bernanke should hold more speeches calling for administrative and congressional action. Ok, this may help a bit in making a case for a more active anti-recession program, but that's the only real criticism of Bernanke? That he's not talking enough? Isn't that a bit lame?

Really, I'm afraid progressives waste time and efforts on an unimportant side issue. Even if they succeed in replacing Bernanke, almost nothing will change. The Fed simply doesn't have the means now to get the economy moving again. The problem is the administration, especially Summers and Geithner, and that Congress isn't doing more for job creation and providing liquidity for small businesses. Would be much more rewarding if progressives concentrated on fighting these resistances, instead of wasting time with Bernanke.


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