Ben Bernanke confirmed as Federal Reserve chairman for second term

Friday, January 29, 2010

In a 70 to 30 vote on Thursday, the United States Senate voted to confirm Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke for a second term.

Official portrait of Ben Bernanke
Image: Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

The vote, which was not split along party lines (11 Democrats and 19 Republicans voted against Bernanke), was the closest vote ever for a Federal Reserve chair appointment. The previous closest vote was in 1983, when Paul A. Volcker was confirmed by the Senate, 84 to 16. Complaints against Bernanke mostly involved his presiding over the major economic downturn, as well as the bailout of AIG. In the case of the latter, Bernanke agreed to the AIG matters being audited by the Government Accountability Office.

The supporters of Bernanke included Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, who said in support, "Let us not judge the man or the work prematurely." Conversely, Democrat Barbara Boxer of California questioned his commitment to all economic aspects, stating, "The American people have the right to ask whether the Fed is truly committed to supporting Main Street's economy, not just Wall Street."

Among the opposers included Republican Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky, the lone vote against Bernanke on his original appointment. He said, "a vote for Ben Bernanke is a vote for bailouts." Republican George Voinovich of Ohio voted in support for Bernanke, as did Utah SenatorOrrin Hatch.

Bernanke was originally looking to pass easily, but opposition began rising in the Senate chambers after Ted Kennedy's seat was lost to the Republicans, though Obama began outreach to Democratic Senators after the election, putting the confirmation back on track.