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.
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.
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).
"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."
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.
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.
"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."
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."
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."