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Most lawmakers warm to Bernanke

U.S. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby said Monday he was confident that Ben Bernanke, President Bush’s pick to succeed Alan Greenspan as Federal Reserve chairman, would be well-received by the committee.
/ Source: Reuters

U.S. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby said Monday he was confident that Ben Bernanke, President Bush’s pick to succeed Alan Greenspan as Federal Reserve chairman, would be well-received by the committee.

“I look forward to a rigorous discussion of a variety of economic issues during Dr. Bernanke’s confirmation hearing,” the Alabama Republican said in a statement. “I am confident that this nominee will be thoroughly questioned but also well-received by all members of our committee.”

But the panel’s top Democrat offered a more-guarded assessment, saying Bernanke should be questioned on the degree to which he would be independent of the White House and his advocacy for inflation targets as a monetary policy guide.

“I think that Bernanke will get an intense hearing before the committee and he ought to get an intense hearing,” Maryland Democratic Sen. Paul Sarbanes told CNBC.

“While Bernanke said in his statement today that he was going to maintain continuity with the Greenspan years, there’s an obvious question to be asked, ’How are you going to sustain that continuity if you’ve been articulating a different standard?”’ Sarbanes said. Greenspan has long been opposed to the adoption of inflation targets.

Another Democratic member of the panel, Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, said Bernanke seemed to be the type of ”careful, non-ideological person” that was needed to lead the Fed.

Schumer also said Bernanke had eased some of his concerns over recent statements on fiscal policy. “Chairman Bernanke’s recent comments seeming to favor extending tax cuts without paying for them are troubling, but he assured me today that he was speaking only as chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers,” Schumer said in a statement.

Once necessary paper work is completed, the Senate Banking Committee can schedule a hearing on the nomination. After the panel acts on the nomination, it then goes to the floor of the full Senate for a final confirming vote. Analysts expect the nomination to be approved.

A spokesman for the committee said the panel intended to move forward in a manner that would allow for a vote by the full Senate before lawmakers depart Washington for a winter break. With much legislative business yet to be done, the Senate could remain in session well into December.