President Barack Obama voiced fresh support Friday for Ben Bernanke's confirmation to a second term as Federal Reserve chief as doubts grew over Senate support for the nomination.
Obama has confidence in Bernanke and believes the Senate will confirm his reappointment, a White House spokesman told reporters traveling with the president to Ohio.
"The president has a great deal of confidence in what chairman Bernanke did to bring our economy back from the brink," deputy White House spokesman Bill Burton said.
The comments came as Democratic Senator Russ Feingold joined the ranks of those saying they will vote against Bernanke, whose term is up Jan. 31, over sharp criticism over his role in the 2008 global financial meltdown.
"Under the watch of Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve permitted grossly irresponsible financial activities that led to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression," Feingold said in a statement.
Senate Democratic Majority Harry Reid had been expected early this week to start the process of ending debate on the nomination and holding a final vote, but postponed the move.
A senior Senate Democratic aide said Reid was gauging the depth of opposition to Bernanke before holding a confirmation vote.
The aide, who declined to be named, said it was not yet clear Bernanke would get the 60 votes needed to ensure confirmation.
Reid met with Bernanke on Thursday and said in a statement he had pressed the central bank chief on applying "more pressure" to banks to lend to small businesses and to aid homeowners facing foreclosure.
"The American people expect our economic leaders to keep Wall Street honest and level the playing field for middle class families and I will continue to hold their feet to the fire to ensure this happens," said Reid.
"As the Senate prepares to take up chairman Bernanke's nomination, I look forward to hearing more from him about how he intends to address these issues," the senator said.
About 10-15 Democrats have indicated to their colleagues that they oppose the nomination, and others have indicated that they have yet to make up their minds, according to an aide to a senator who opposes Bernanke's confirmation.
Time magazine named Bernanke its 2009 "Person of the Year" in December, crediting him with helping guide the United States through financial turmoil.
Although many economists agree that Bernanke's efforts eased the impact of the worst crisis in decades and likely averted a new Great Depression, a number of lawmakers blame Bernanke for failing to stop the housing and credit bubble that led to the crisis.
A group of senators from across the U.S. political spectrum have expressed opposition to Bernanke, and some have proposed legislation that would enhance Congress's abilities to audit the Fed.
© AFP 2022