Washington The Senate Banking Committee on Wednesday approved the nomination of Ben Bernanke to be the next chairman of the Federal Reserve, a position seen by many as the second-most influential job in the country.
The panel, by voice vote, favorably recommended his confirmation to the full Senate. Considered one of the country's leading economic thinkers, Bernanke is expected to get a positive vote there as well; the timing of when that will happen was still being nailed down.
Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., was the only senator present voicing opposition to Bernanke. Bunning cited concerns that the nominee would be too much in the mold of Greenspan and not sufficiently an independent thinker.
Bernanke, 51, is a former Princeton professor and Fed governor who now serves as chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Lawmakers and the administration are wasting no time on his nomination because they want him ready to take over when the 79-year-old Alan Greenspan retires Jan. 31 after 18-plus years at the helm.
"Dr. Bernanke is eminently qualified and a superb choice for the nomination of Federal Reserve chairman," said the committee's chairman, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala.
If confirmed as expected, Bernanke will lead the Fed at a time when the economy faces challenges, including bloated budget and trade deficits and worries about whether the housing market will crash. There also are concerns about high energy prices and the jobs market.