Embattled Federal Reserve
Chairman Ben Bernanke won confirmation for a second term Thursday, but
only by the closest vote ever for the crucial post and after withering
criticism from US lawmakers for bailing out Wall Street while other
Americans suffered in recession.
The US Senate confirmed Bernanke
for a new four-year term by a 70-30 vote, a seemingly solid majority
but 14 votes worse than the closest previous vote for a Fed chairman.
Senate battle over Bernanke's confirmation has been a test of central
bank independence, a crucial element if the Fed is to carry out
unpopular but economically essential policies. Its decisions on
interest rates can have immense consequences, from the success or
failure of the largest companies to the typical home-buyer's ability to
get an affordable loan to the price of cereal at the grocery store or
gas at the corner station.