Feingold to oppose Bernanke as doubts continue to grow over re-confirmation

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) on Friday morning pledged to vote against Ben Bernanke's nomination to head up the Federal Reserve Board for a second term.

Feingold’s announcement comes amid questions about whether Bernanke has the votes to win confirmation in the Senate. He was easily approved in a 16-7 Senate Banking Committee vote in December.

The chairman has come under criticism from lawmakers in both parties on a range of issues, from the Fed’s efforts to save AIG to the transparency of its books.

Bernanke has taken heat as Wall Street’s profits have soared while unemployment has become stuck in double digits, and the wave of economic populism soaring through Washington in the wake of a stunning Democratic loss in the Massachusetts Senate races comes at a bad time for his confirmation.

Bernanke was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year in December for his handling of the financial crisis. He was nominated to a second four-year term by President Barack Obama in August, and his first term ends at the end of January.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has not scheduled a confirmation vote on Bernanke’s nomination, and the Senate is running out of legislative days before the end of January. Reid on Thursday asked Bernanke to provide him with more information on what the Fed is doing to increase lending by banks.

If Bernanke is not confirmed by the end of the month, the Fed’s vice chairman would temporarily take over.

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.

Feingold blames Bernanke and the Fed for ushering in the economic recession.

“Under the watch of Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve permitted grossly irresponsible financial activities that led to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression,” he said in a statement.

He blames Bernanke for the flourishing of predatory mortgage lending and activities by banks that Feingold said put the country’s economy at risk.

He also said the Fed under Bernanke’s leadership has resisted efforts to review how taxpayer money was used to handle the crisis.

“When the full Senate considers his nomination, I will vote against another term for Chairman Bernanke,” Feingold concluded.

This article was first posted at 9:38 a.m. and updated at 10:22 a.m.