Reid wants more answers from Bernanke ahead of Senate confirmation vote

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Thursday he wants more information from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on how to pressure banks into helping the economy.

Bernanke’s current term is up on Jan. 31, and Reid has yet to schedule a vote or invoke cloture on a nomination that has drawn strong criticism from some Republicans and Democrats.

Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and David Vitter (R-La.) have holds on Bernanke's nomination. Most analysts predict Bernanke has enough votes for confirmation, but they expect the vote to be one of the most contentious ever for a Fed chairman.

Reid on Thursday said that he has broad concerns and wants to hear more from Bernanke on how to strengthen the economy, improve efforts to reduce home foreclosures and spur bank lending to small businesses.

“These are not only my concerns, but the concerns of Nevadans struggling to support their families," Reid said in a statement following a meeting with Bernanke.

“As the Senate prepares to take up Chairman Bernanke's nomination, I look forward to hearing more from him about how he intends to address these issues,” said Reid, who faces a tough re-election in November.

Lawmakers have requested new information from the Federal Reserve about its efforts to support American International Group (AIG), which has become one of the most contentious aspects of the government's bailout of the financial industry.

Bernanke said this week that he welcomed an investigation from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

“The Senate should not rush ahead with the Bernanke nomination until the ongoing examinations by Congress and the GAO of the Fed’s AIG bailout are complete,” Bunning, DeMint and Vitter said in a statement. “Senators should not be put in a position to vote before they know the full story behind Chairman Bernanke’s role in the bailout, what the Fed knew and when, and how severe the losses for the taxpayers will be.”

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Jan. 27 is slated to testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on the AIG bailout.