Senator moves to slow Bernanke’s Fed confirmation

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders said on Wednesday that he was placing a hold on Ben Bernanke’s nomination for a second term as Federal Reserve chairman, a move that could slow the confirmation process.

If the hold is not withdrawn, the move by Sanders, an independent from Vermont, means that Senate leaders will not be able to bring up the nomination for a vote by unanimous consent. Instead, they may need to garner 60 votes in order to consider the nomination.

In a statement, Sanders blasted Bernanke, whose current term expires on January 31, for doing too little to help ordinary Americans, while going too easy on big financial institutions.

“The American people want a new direction on Wall Street and at the Fed. They do not want as chairman someone who has been part of the problem and who has been responsible for many of the enormous difficulties that we are now experiencing,” Sanders said. “It’s time for him to go.”

President Barack Obama nominated the former Princeton University economics professor to another term as central bank chief in August, praising his handling of the worst financial crisis since the 1930s.

Many lawmakers, however, are upset at the large-scale bailouts of financial firms the Fed helped engineer. Many also accuse the Fed of having failed to stem the risky lending practices that helped fuel the financial crisis.

Bernanke is set to testify to the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday. The panel would need to approve his nomination before sending it before the full Senate for a final confirming vote.

With the Senate tied up with health-care reform, it may be difficult to schedule any procedural votes on the nomination before year end.

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