The Bernanke re-confirmation issue is gaining increasing coverage as the days slip away until his first term expires. With just six days left in his first term, the shifting and ever-transitory political winds will dictate his future and consequently of the global financial and economic landscape.
Earlier today, Reuters reported that Bernanke would be meeting Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) at the Capitol this afternoon. According to Durbin and a senior administration official, Obama has been actively campaigning for Bernanke’s reappointment, including making phonecalls to Senators ahead of the confirmation hearings.
As of the current tally, 40 senators will vote yes, 17 no, and 32 undecided. The remaining 11 have not voiced any conviction either way, nor have they said they’re undecided.
Twelve more yes votes are needed for cloture, and with less than a week until Bernanke’s term expires and an increasingly populist Senate, the power of filibuster may come back to the limelight, just days after Martha Coakley lost the Massachusetts Senator race to Republican Scott Brown, preventing a reconciliation of the Senate’s version of the healthcare reform bill with the House’s.
With midterms later this year, the undecided Senators know their votes on the Bernanke reappointment will have huge implications for their own Senate seats, especially considering 84% of respondents to a Fox News poll (yes, I know it’s Fox News, but here me out) want Bernanke gone.
And the pendulum swing is favoring the GOP right now, with Coakley’s loss fresh in everyone’s minds and the bank/government collusions and conspiracies pervading the news for the last few months. As Obama’s popularity continues its free-fall, Republicans will attempt further to associate the bailouts with the Dems and consequently Bernanke. Even John McCain (R-AZ) has voiced opposition to Bernanke’s reappointment. This is the same man whose economic adviser, Phil Gramm, was one of the brains behind the inane repeal of Glass-Steagall (that is, until Gramm announced that America was a “nation of whiners” complaining about a recession that apparently didn’t exist).
Make no mistake about it, the undecideds are playing a wait-and-see game to assess the political winds before issuing any conviction in the form of a vote. With Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) expecting to file the cloture motion sometime this week, the pressure behind being the 60th vote is on.
If cloture fails and unlimited debate manifests, Bernanke’s term will expire without a reconfirmation for a second stint. The failure of cloture itself should send Bernanke’s Fed chairman career straight to the ground. And Obama’s with it.
I personally expect Bernanke to come up with 60 “yes” votes, one way or another. Whether it’s due to the active urging of the President, or another sell-off in equities attributed to the uncertainty, I think cloture will pass and a majority will vote to confirm. However, I think the possibility of Bernanke not being re-confirmed are higher than ever, and failure to keep him in the Fed Chairman seat could be in the nail in the coffin for the Obama administration.
This is a time of populist politics and the political winds are just as volatile as the financial markets. With 50.8% of Americans opposing the healthcare plan and the resurgence of the filibuster privilege with Brown’s ninth-inning victory, Republicans have a surplus of political capital they haven’t seen since the months following 9/11. If they continue to successfully pass off ownership of the bailouts and bank shenanigans to the Democrats, internal divisions between the the Democratic party will further widen, and the Dems eager to dissociate from the Obama administration and the Bernanke bailouts may increase in quantity as well as conviction.
Indeed, almost two-thirds of the Senators who have yet to voice a “yes” or “no” vote to Bernanke’s reconfirmation are Dems. If even half of these Dems vote “no” on cloture (which is a vote to extend debate, allowing them the flexibility of claiming they didn’t vote against Bernanke but were merely undecided still and desired more debate), cloture will almost certainly fail and Bernanke will not be reappointed. The cloture vote will fall to the marginal Democrat(s).
22 of the 43 undecided/non-respondent Senators need to vote yes for cloture to pass. If the anti-Obama and anti-Wall Street perceptions are amplified within the next few days, we may see Senators falling back to a “no” vote on cloture, which merely signifies a desire to debate further, if for nothing else but their own self-serving political reasons. Whether we see a Coakley Fail version 2.0 or we see a (slight) vindication for the Obama administration, the next few days will have drastic implications on the long-term economic, financial, and political landscape in America.
At the very least, these are interesting times.
We at Shadow Capitalism encourage readers to write their Senators urging them to vote no on Senator Reid’s imminent cloture motion and vote no on Bernanke’s reconfirmation if cloture does indeed pass. Below is a list of as-of-yet undecided or non-respondent Senators. They will decide the future of American monetary policy. We acknowledge the corruption in Washington and the conflict of interests between Congressmen and their constituents that sometimes occur. However, these are unique times, as populist anger is actually causing substantive implications in Washington. Obama’s approval rating has plummeted against the backdrop of one of the largest rallies in American equity market history. A shoe-in Democratic candidate in one of the historically bluest states was handed a last-minute loss at the hands of a rather-unknown GOP candidate vying to replace Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat. Senators are scared for their own jobs that will be up in the air come November. They need to appease their constituents now more than ever. Let them know what you think.
Barrasso, John (R-WY) – Senator_JBarrasso@barrasso.senate.gov
Begich, Mark (D-AK) – firstname.lastname@example.org
Bond, Kit (R-MO) – http://bond.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=ContactUs.ContactForm
Brownback, Sam (R-KS) – http://brownback.senate.gov/public/contact/emailsam.cfm
Burris, Roland (D-IL) – Senator_RolandBurris@Burris.Senate.Gov
Cantwell, Maria (D-WA) – http://cantwell.senate.gov/contact/index.html
Cardin, Benjamin (D-MD) – http://www.cardin.senate.gov/contact/email.cfm
Casey, Jr., Robert (D-PA) – http://casey.senate.gov/contact/
Chambliss, Saxby (R-GA) – http://chambliss.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=ContactUs.ContactForm
Coburn, Tom (R-OK) – http://coburn.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=ContactSenatorCoburn.Home
Cochran, Thad (R-MO) – http://cochran.senate.gov/contact.htm
Ensign, John (R-NV) – http://ensign.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Contact.ContactForm
Enzi, Michael (R-WY) – http://enzi.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=ContactInformation.EmailSenatorEnzi
Franken, Al (D-MN) – email@example.com
Gillibrand, Kirsten (D-NY) – firstname.lastname@example.org
Grassley, Chuck (R-IA) – http://grassley.senate.gov/contact.cfm
Harkin, Tom (D-IA) – http://isakson.senate.gov/contact.cfm
Kaufman, Edward (D-DE) – http://kaufman.senate.gov/services/contact/
Klobuchar, Amy (D-MN) – http://lautenberg.senate.gov/contact/
Leahy, Patrick (D-VT) – email@example.com
LeMieux, George (R-FL) – http://lemieux.senate.gov/public/?p=EmailSenatorLeMieux
Levin, Carl (D-MI) – http://levin.senate.gov/contact/index.cfm
Lincoln, Blanche (D-AR) – http://lincoln.senate.gov/contact/index.cfm
McCaskill, Claire (D-MO) – http://mccaskill.senate.gov/contact/
McConnell, Mitch (R-KY) – http://mcconnell.senate.gov/contact_form.cfm
Mikulski, Barbara (D-MD) – http://mikulski.senate.gov/mailform.html
Murkowski, Lisa (R-AK) – http://murkowski.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=ContactMe.EMailLisa
Murray, Patty (D-WA) – http://murray.senate.gov/email/index.cfm
Risch, James (R-ID) – http://risch.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=Email
Roberts, Pat (R-KS) – http://roberts.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=ContactInformation.EmailPat
Shaheen, Jeanne (D-NH) – http://shaheen.senate.gov/contact/
Snowe, Olympia (R-ME) – http://snowe.senate.gov/contact.htm
Specter, Arlen (D-PA) – http://specter.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Contact.ContactForm
Stabenow, Debbie (D-MI) – http://stabenow.senate.gov/email.htm
Thune, John (R-SD) – http://thune.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Contact.Email
Udall, Mark (D-CO) – Senator_Mark_Udall@markudall.senate.gov
Udall, Tom (D-NM) – http://tomudall.senate.gov/?p=contact
Webb, Jim (D-VA) – http://webb.senate.gov/contact.cfm
Wyden, Ron (D-OR) – http://wyden.senate.gov/contact/