By Mark Memmott
After saying on Sunday that he was "very skeptical" about the nomination of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to a second four-year term and "leaning against" voting aye, Sen. John McCain has made a firm decision.
He will vote against a second term for Bernanke, McCain's office just confirmed in a statement. The senator says that:
"Our country is still facing an economic crisis and while I appreciate the service that Chairman Bernanke has performed as Federal Reserve Chairman, I believe that he must be held accountable for many of the decisions that contributed to our financial meltdown."
It was on CBS-TV's Face the Nation yesterday that McCain most recently expressed his skepticism. Here's the exchange he had with host Bob Schieffer:
Schieffer: "Senator, a lot of unforeseen opposition suddenly cropped up last week to the confirmation of Ben Bernanke to be the chairman of the Federal Reserve. I now count some 10 senators, five Republicans, five Democrats who say they're going to vote against him. Are you going to vote for him or against him?"
McCain: "I'm-- I'm very skeptical about his nomination. I'm worried that if his nomination is turned down the effect that it might have. But the fact is that Chairman Bernanke was in charge when we hit the iceberg and his policies were partially responsible for the meltdown that we experienced. I think that he should be held accountable."
Schieffer: "Well, do you think he should withdraw his nomination?"
McCain: "No, I -- I -- I don't know because you know ..."-
Schieffer: "Well, I mean, are you going to vote against him or you're just concerned about it?"
McCain: "I'm both concerned and leaning against."
Schieffer: "Leaning against ..."
Bernanke was first nominated to the Fed by then-president George W. Bush in 2006. Then, he was confirmed by a voice vote in the Senate -- meaning there was no roll call and therefore his confirmation was basically unopposed.
The chairman has now been nominated for a second term by Bush's Democratic successor -- but in the four years since the economy has slipped into what many view as its worst downturn since the Great Depression.
Even with McCain's opposition, the conventional wisdom today is that Bernanke is most likely going to win Senate approval later this week.