GOP's Shelby Says He Will Oppose Bernanke
Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama said Thursday that Bernanke's support of Wall Street bailouts, lax regulations that led to the financial crisis and failures to protect consumers are all reasons why he will oppose the nomination.
"Our trust and confidence were misplaced," Shelby said of Bernanke's leadership.
Shelby's decision comes as the Senate Banking Committee was weighing whether to grant Bernanke another four years to run the nation's central bank.
Despite opposition by Shelby and others, the Bernanke, 56, still appears to have enough support to win approval by the panel and by the full Senate. The panel's chairman Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., is among those on Thursday saying they will support the Fed chief.
Bernanke's nomination comes at the height of public anger toward the Fed.
Many ordinary Americans were disgusted by the Wall Street bailouts and hefty bonuses paid to employees of those rescued companies, while Main Street continued to suffer from rising unemployment, record-high home foreclosures and stagnant wages.
In turn, legislation in Congress would rein in the Fed's powers, and a House-passed provision would subject the Fed to an audit by congressional investigators.
The opposition to Bernanke comes from an odd coalition of liberals and conservatives. Besides Shelby, others saying they will oppose Bernanke's nomination include Jeff Merkley, D-Ohio.
So dissatisfied by the bailouts, Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent liberal from Vermont, wants to block the nomination on the Senate floor. He has placed a "hold" on the nomination, meaning it will require a super-majority of 60 votes to confirm Bernanke.
Bernanke's term ends Jan. 31 and unless Sanders relents a full Senate vote on his nomination is not expected until January.
Despite lawmaker anger over the bailouts and worries about stubbornly high unemployment, even many of Bernanke's critics acknowledge that his out-of-the-box thinking helped prevent the Great Recession from turning into the second Great Depression.
Time magazine on Wednesday gave Bernanke its highest honor as Person of the Year. Bernanke's "creative leadership" was credited with helping to assure that 2009 was a period of economic recovery, rather than "catastrophic depression."
Bernanke was first tapped to run the Fed by President George W. Bush. Before taking over in February 2006, Bernanke had served as Bush's top economic adviser and was a Fed member when Alan Greenspan was chairman.
Most of his professional life, however, was spent in academia, including teaching economics at Princeton for 17 years.