The Senate Banking Committee expects to decide next week whether to recommend Ben Bernanke for a second term at the helm of the Federal Reserve.

The vote is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 17, the AP reported this afternoon.

Bernanke faced a tough confirmation hearing last week, during which many lawmakers blamed the country's slow economic recovery on his leadership. Still, many expect him to clear the banking committee without too much difficulty, as a number of its Democratic members -- including Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) -- signaled they would vote in his favor.

Even ranking Republican Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.) left open the possibility he could back Bernanke for a second term.

Clearing the entire Senate, however, could prove more challenging for the Fed's current chairman.

At least three lawmakers -- Sens. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) -- have already announced they plan to place a hold on Bernanke's confirmation vote.

DeMint, in particular, stressed last week he would maintain that block until Senate Democrats permitted a floor vote on a bill that would subject the Fed's monetary policy to audits.