The US Senate has moved to clear the way to confirm Ben Bernanke to a second term as Federal Reserve chairman, setting a procedural vote for today in a sign that the needed votes were now secured.
President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats scrambled to drum up backing for Bernanke after a Republican won a stunning upset in a Massachusetts Senate race last week, largely because of voter anger about the economy.
Bernanke was in jeopardy of becoming the fall guy, and sudden doubts about his confirmation roiled financial markets. But a push by the White House and Senate allies slowly coaxed undecided senators into the Fed chairman’s column.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid set a vote for today to try to end a procedural roadblock put in place by Bernanke opponents. Both Democrats and Republicans believe Bernanke now has the 60 votes to needed to overcome the hurdle, which would pave the way for a final confirmation vote, perhaps today.
The votes will come with time running out for Bernanke, whose first four-year term as Fed chief expires on Sunday. Fed Vice-Chairman Donald Kohn was poised to take the reins of the cental bank if needed. A poll found 47 senators ready to back Bernanke, with 19 standing in opposition.