On Thursday, the Senate approved the nomination of Ben Bernanke to chair the Federal Reserve by a vote of 77-23. His confirmation nonetheless drew a record-breaking level of opposition, four years after he easily passed through the Senate. Seven lawmakers voted to end the filibuster then pivoted to vote against the confirmation itself, which required a simple majority. Two noteworthy ‘no’ votes on the Democratic side: Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), who both face difficult reelection fights. Some have speculated that the closer than expected vote may make it harder for Bernanke to defend the Fed as Congress prepares to intensify its oversight of monetary policy and curb the Fed’s authority over the banking system.
As the Senate works towards a “jobs bill” expected to be released next week, disagreement remains among Democrats as to what the bill should include. The House already passed a $154 billion stimulus plan in December, including an expansion of unemployment and health-care benefits, as well as new infrastructure spending. Senate Democrats have met resistance from moderates who object to such a high cost. Senate Majority Leader Reid is expected to announce a new proposal next week incorporating ideas from the Administration including shifting $30 billion from TARP and sending it to community banks for lending.
Geithner Testifies on AIG
During testimony and questioning Wednesday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner defended his own performance and the actions of federal officials during the financial crisis more generally. “I was there; I know what I was responsible for. I take full responsibility and take great pride in those judgments,” Geithner said in testimony. “I hope you will give the same care and judgment to looking at those decisions in retrospect and with benefit of hindsight that we gave in making those decisions at the time.”