Dodd: Bernanke vote sends signal about importance of Fed independence

Chairman Ben Bernanke's successful confirmation on Thursday signals lawmakers have had a "change in thought" about the role and purpose of the Federal Reserve, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) told reporters.

While Bernanke's return for a second term once seemed imperiled, Dodd said the chamber's shift in opinion reflects lawmakers' realization that the Fed is too important to undermine or weaken out of frustration.

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He added that was an "encouraging sign," as an effort remains underway to force periodic audits of the independent board.

That proposal, a version of which passed the House last year, is "dangerous," Dodd, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, said Thursday, as that plan threatens to inject politics into a process that has serious implications on U.S. markets.

"I think people are coming around to the notion that undermining the Fed, weaking the Fed, would be dangerous, and what I think this vote may have reflected is some of that change in thought that persisted a few months ago, or weeks ago even," Dodd said. "Maybe what this debate did was increase attention on the role of the Fed... in the absence of that debate, we may not have come to that conclusion."

Senate Democrats initially thought the vote to confirm Bernanke this week would be close, if not unsuccessful, given emerging, manifest dissatisfaction with the Fed's handling of the economic recovery.

A number of senators on both sides of the political aisle made their opposition to Bernanke's nomination well known before Thursday, and a few even placed holds on his conformation out of protest.

Some maintained their opposition even after Bernanke was handily confirmed on a 70-30 vote. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who seemed to be the chairman's most fervent opponent, said in a statement that Thursday's outcome still sent a "loud and clear message" to Bernanke to pursue economic recovery more aggressively.

For other lawmakers, however, frustration with the chairman seemed to fade by the end of the week, as it became clear that his ouster could have a serious effect on U.S. markets.

Dodd repeatedly made that assertion himself, and he repeated Thursday that Bernanke's return to the Fed would assist lawmakers throughout the arduous process of economic recovery.

"It's a good vote, its the right vote, and I'm glad it was a strong bipartisan vote. That doesn't happen so frequently these days," Dodd told reporters, quipping that reporters' alarmist stories about Bernanke's possible defeat proved untrue.

"We still have a lot of work to do, and Ben Bernanke is the right person to be in the critical job over these coming days, so I'm pleased," he added.