WASHINGTON (WIS) — The Senate has confirmed Dillon County native Ben Bernanke for a second term as chairman of the Federal Reserve, but South Carolina's two Republican senators were split on the decision.
The Senate voted 70-30 on Thursday to reappoint Bernanke amid criticism of his judgment ahead of the financial crisis and his support for massive Wall Street bailouts. His supporters credited him for engineering a financial industry rescue in time to prevent a catastrophic collapse.
The vote was the closest ever for a nominee for Fed chairman. It came amid roiling public anger over the economy and stubbornly high unemployment that fueled a populist backlash against Bernanke. No Fed chairman has been rejected in the Senate.
Senator Lindsey Graham supported Bernanke's reappointment, saying the Fed's response to the financial crisis in the fall of 2008 averted a complete financial meltdown that would have led to a second Great Depression.
"Had we not acted to stabilize the financial system, I believe things today would be even worse," Graham said. "The economy today is not where any of us want it to be. I think it is unfair, though, to try and hold Chairman Bernanke responsible for all our economic problems."
Senator Jim DeMint took the opposite standpoint, claiming the Senate "rubber-stamped" what he called "a failed economic policy."
"Chairman Bernanke's easy-money policy fueled the housing bubble and his push for Wall Street bailouts made things worse," DeMint said. "It's clear that this administration will not take responsibility for its economic mistakes and plans to continue a reckless battle against free markets and American jobs."
DeMint's opposition to Bernanke is a reversal of his original position toward the South Carolina native. DeMint supported Bernanke's original nomination in 2005, saying, "I believe Dr. Bernanke has the wisdom and experience needed to lead the Federal Reserve."
Graham said he does not agree with every decision Bernanke has made as chairman, and wants more transparency in the Fed's operations.
"But on balance, I think he's been a steady hand at the tiller," continued Graham. "And the last thing the American economy needs is a change in Federal Reserve leadership which could create tremendous disruption and uncertainty throughout our financial system."