Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid met on Thursday to talk about ways to strengthen the economy, spur more lending by banks and curb home foreclosures.
The meeting comes as Bernanke waits for what promises to be a contentious vote in the Senate on his nomination to run the nation's central bank for another four years. A vote still hasn't been set. Officials at one time had hoped it would come this week. Bernanke's term expires on Jan. 31.
"I believe more pressure needs to be applied to banks to lend money to small businesses and keep more Americans in their homes," Reid, D-Nev., said after his meeting with Bernanke.
Just days after losing their filibuster-proof Senate majority in a Massachusetts special election, Senate Democrats are searching for how to defuse voter angst over the sluggish economy and high unemployment before November's elections.
Although Bernanke, 56, should have enough votes in the Senate to win a second term, some lawmakers have lined up against him. They blame him for not spotting problems that led to the financial crisis, failing to protect consumers and supporting Wall Street bailouts.
So dissatisfied by the bailouts, Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent liberal from Vermont, wants to block Bernanke's confirmation with a filibuster on the Senate floor. He has placed a "hold" on the nomination, meaning it will require a super-majority of 60 votes to confirm Bernanke. Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., says he oppose Bernanke's quest for a second term.
When the full Senate took up Bernanke's nomination to be Fed chief four years ago, only one senator — Bunning — opposed him.
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