Bernanke gets a second term

By Jennifer Liberto, senior writer


WASHINGTON (CNNMoney.com) -- Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was confirmed for a second term Thursday by the U.S. Senate.

The final confirmation vote was 70-30. Minutes earlier, more than enough senators, 77, voted to end a filibuster on the nomination in a procedural move that required 60 votes.

The vote, which occurred just three days before Bernanke's first term was scheduled to end, came after heavy lobbying by Democratic leaders and the Obama administration. President Obama, himself, made calls last weekend. And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., lobbied Republicans to make sure he had enough votes.

Despite the strong showing, Bernanke won his confirmation by one of the smallest margins of all time for a Fed chairman. Often the confirmation of a Fed chairman is so overwhelming and uncontroversial, it's done by a voice vote.

In 1983, then-chairman Paul Volcker was confirmed for a second term by a vote of 84-16, considered one of the more controversial confirmation votes at the time. Bernanke's second-term vote was far slimmer.

The controversy came through in the debate, which grew impassioned on both sides.

"This is not some assistant undersecretary of some other agency, this is the central bank chairman of the most important central bank in the world," Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., said in the last speech of the day on the issue. "It's a critically important component in continuing our path to economic recovery. We will bear the collective responsibility of failing to meet that obligation if we walk away. . . by continuing this filibuster or defeating this nominee."

But several Republicans and Democrats countered that Bernanke deserves much of the blame for the current economic situation.

"Our present economic problems are no accident," said Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., a key lawmaker who works with Dodd on financial legislation. "Dr. Bernanke's Federal Reserve played a key role in setting the stage for the financial crisis we're in now."

Several senators, including Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Sen. George LeMieux, R-Fla., voted to end the filibuster blocking the confirmation vote but then voted against Bernanke's second term.

"He sat there, and said everything was fine. Everything was fine and everything was wonderful. Everything was OK," said Boxer, who is up for re-election this fall. "If Mr. Bernanke is confirmed, and I expect he will be, I hope he will listen to what a lot of us are saying here, and turn his attention to Main Street."

The Bernanke vote was a particularly tough one for the Senate.

The Senate is sensitive to growing voter frustration that Washington did a better job getting Wall Street back on its feet than Main Street.

Bernanke is largely seen as a symbol of Wall Street, even though many credit him for saving the economy from falling into a second Great Depression.

At least a half dozen Democrats, including several up for re-election this November, voted no on Bernanke. But the vote garnered some Republican support.

"The past decade was the worst decade in modern times," Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont who votes with the Democrats, said on the Senate floor. He is among a handful of senators from both parties who delayed Bernanke's confirmation.

"Why do you want to re-appoint somebody who not only failed at his job as chairman of the Fed, in terms of safety and soundness, but was the author the Bush economy?" Sanders asked. To top of page

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