Several progressive groups have decided to whip up opposition to Ben Bernanke for a variety of reasons. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee has created StopBailoutBen, attacking the Federal Reserve chair for his secret bailout deals and demanding accountability on the Fed’s balance sheet. Other groups plan to jump in within a matter of days. I was unclear whether they wanted just to make a statement of support for a series of economic issues, like auditing the Fed or monetary policies that fulfill the Fed’s legal mandate to maximize employment, or whether they actually thought that, with a progressive push, they could actually give Bernanke’s confirmation some trouble.

Republican Bob Corker may have answered that question today, saying that Bernanke may not have the votes:

It’s unclear whether Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will have enough Senate votes to get a second term, one Republican senator said Tuesday.

Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.), a GOP member of the banking committee holding hearing on Bernanke’s nomination to a second term in charge of the Fed, said he wasn’t sure yet whether the chairman had the votes on the Banking committee or in the Senate as a whole.

“I don’t know where that sits,” Corker told reporters when asked if Bernanke would have the votes to get a second term, adding he wasn’t sure whether Bernanke would have the votes in the 23-member Senate Banking Committee, either.

Corker said he’s leaning toward voting for Bernanke, but he probably has some sense of the Committee’s views on the subject. To my knowledge, only Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has definitively stated that he would vote against Bernanke’s confirmation.

Richard Shelby (R-AL), the ranking member of the Banking Committee, has said that the Fed has “utterly failed” in its regulatory role, a sign that he may not support Bernanke.

Bernanke tried to defend himself and his organization’s role on Sunday with an op-ed in the Washington Post. In it, he warned against reducing “the capacity of the Federal Reserve to perform its core functions,” in particular the efforts to strip the Fed of banking regulatory oversight (in the Senate bill), and the move to audit the Fed, which Bernanke said would reduce the body’s independence. But the Fed’s role in causing the Great Recession suggests that their independence is not entirely warranted. And the amazing line in the Fed Open Market Committee’s last meeting minutes, where the organization actually asserts that they are concerned that banks might loosen credit and start lending again, suggests a complete nonchalance over double-digit inflation that borders on criminal.

Bernanke seems far more concerned with preserving his institutional power at the Fed than getting Americans working again, either through his own monetary policy or pushing for Congressional action. The Fed is talking about closing loopholes that allow banksters to chair the regional central banks that are supposed to regulate them, and shrinking its portfolio in anticipation of a potential audit, but they aren’t talking about jobless people, not one bit, or the effect of all the jobless on the overall economy, which again is part of their mission.

I have not previously expected Bernanke’s confirmation to be in doubt, but perhaps he will be the bailout, pro-Wall Street scapegoat that Congress may be looking for. I would have told you yesterday there was no chance, but today looks a little different.

David Dayen

David Dayen

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