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Bernanke Looks Safe For Passage

The Wall Street Journal now counts 51 votes in favor of Ben Bernanke’s confirmation for another term as the Chair of the Federal Reserve. If the new regime of just Ben Bernanke requiring 50 votes to pass the Senate holds, then he’s pretty much assured of confirmation. This would explain why a date has been set for the vote.

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday moved to clear the way to confirm Ben Bernanke to a second term as Federal Reserve chairman, setting a procedural vote for Thursday 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.

Considering the intellectual caliber of the people voting on the nomination – like genius Tom Coburn, who doesn’t know that the Federal Reserve has a mandate to maximize employment, I can’t say I’m surprised.

About the only thing that can trip Bernanke up at this point is if something damaging comes out at the AIG hearing coming up in just a few minutes. Today Bernanke delivered a letter to the House Oversight Committee explaining the Fed’s role in the AIG bailout. He says that he was not directly involved in negotiating with the counter-parties (which we knew) and supported the final plan to create Maiden Lane III to pay off the counter-parties at par. He also begged off having any knowledge of the NY Federal Reserve Bank trying to withhold disclosure of the counter-party payment information. You can read the letter, it’s all “I was not involved, I was not involved.” If information that contradicts this comes to light today, maybe that gets back to the issue of confirming Bernanke. But I’d find that possibility unlikely.

UPDATE: Chuck Grassley will vote no on Bernanke, citing concerns about inflation, bizarrely enough. This seems like too little, too late.

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David Dayen

David Dayen