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WASHINGTON_Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke faced mounting Senate opposition for another four-year term as head of the U.S. central bank Friday, even as the White House described President Barack Obama as confident about his confirmation.
Sen. Barbara Boxer announced she will vote against Bernanke, adding another Democrat to the ranks of those arrayed against Bernanke. “It is time for a change _ it is time for Main Street to have a champion at the Fed,” she said.
Democratic Sens. Russ Feingold and Bryon Dorgan also said they will oppose Bernanke on the Senate floor. Feingold faults Bernanke for missing a high-risk culture at financial companies that led to a near economic meltdown late last year. Dorgan also is upset that the Fed has kept secret the identities of firms that drew emergency loans from the Fed.
Deputy press secretary Bill Burton, talking to reporters as Obama headed to Ohio Friday, said the president has “a great deal of confidence” in the actions Bernanke already has taken and believes he’s “the best person for the job.”
Burton said the White House still believes that Bernanke, 56, will get enough votes in the Senate to run the central bank for another four years.
But the political waters are getting rougher for Bernanke, and the Senate confirmation vote may be much tighter than many had anticipated just a few a month ago.
A time for a vote still has not been set. Officials at one time had hoped that it would come this week. Bernanke’s term expires on Jan. 31.
If Bernanke is not confirmed before his term expires, Fed Vice Chairman Donald Kohn would probably step in as chairman and run the central bank on a temporary basis.
Just days after losing their Senate supermajority in a Massachusetts special election, Senate Democrats are searching for a way to defuse voter anger over an economy that remains sluggish and is recovering slowly from a recession that was as harsh as any in decades.
While praised for preventing the Great Recession from turning into the Great Depression of the 1930s, Bernanke’s support of Wall Street bailouts _ especially the $182 billion rescue of insurance giant American International Group Inc. _ has touched a nerve on Main Street.
Burton said the White House is working to get Bernanke confirmed and there is no backup plan. Some senators have said they want more information supporting Bernanke, a holdover from Republican President George W. Bush.
Bernanke and Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, met Thursday to discuss ways to strengthen the economy, encourage more lending by banks and curb home foreclosures. Reid has been conspicuously quiet about where he stands.
Associated Press Writers Jim Kuhnhenn and Andy Taylor contributed to this report. Philip Elliott reported from aboard Air Force One.