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Tide Turns Slightly Back Toward Bernanke In Final Days

Chris Dodd and Judd Gregg issued a joint statement today expressing confidence that Ben Bernanke would be confirmed to a second term as chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Senator Christopher J. Dodd, the Democrat from Connecticut who is chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, and Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, a Republican who is a longtime member of the panel, said in their statement that “based on our discussions with our colleagues, we are very confident that Chairman Bernanke will win confirmation by the Senate for a second term.”

The senators referred to recent media reports “highlighting a very vocal opposition.” Two Democratic senators facing tough re-election races had announced at the end of the week they would be among those who would oppose Mr. Bernanke, and his prospects for winning the needed 60 votes suddenly were clouded.

This is part of a very forceful establishment blowback, which is essentially positing that Bernanke must be saved for the sake of the stock market. It has already brought in the likes of Harry Reid, Mary Landrieu, and today, Dick Durbin.

The latest whip count from The Hill shows 25 Senators supporting Bernanke, with 13 opposed, thus far. That count does not include Durbin, so it’s 26-13. The count makes the assumption that those who voted for Bernanke in the Banking Committee will also do so on the floor of the Senate, although at least one Democrat, Sherrod Brown, expressed hesitancy at doing so.

Importantly, 8 Republicans have come out in support, and 5 Democrats are opposed. That means, if Democrats can be mustered to support, Bernanke would have a 62-38 cushion even if no more Republicans would support him. But the Times article showed that there are more than five Democrats in opposition:

Senate Democratic leaders had contemplated a vote this week on the nomination, but were forced to hold off after encountering opposition at their caucus’s weekly luncheon on Wednesday. The leaders asked for a show of hands and, though aides would not provide a precise count, Mr. Reid was said to be surprised at the number.

And in a sign of such uncertainty, Mr. Reid asked the minority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, to count the votes on the Republican side. Mr. McConnell has not said how he will vote.

As I’ll be rounding back into full-time News Desk stuff this week, I will continue to monitor this as we move forward.

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David Dayen

David Dayen