That Washington

Sen. Cantwell Still Undecided on Bernanke

By Josh Feit January 26, 2010

A big vote is coming up this week in the U.S. Senate (says Paul Krugman): The reconfirmation of Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke, which President Obama supports. Bernanke needs about 45 Democrats to support his reconfirmation (he's got about 15 Republicans and 29 Democrats so far) to overcome a filibuster.

It's a big vote because it's loaded with symbolism for the public re: the bank bailouts and the AIG fiasco. It's also a tricky moment for Democrats. President Obama needs a win, but the public would like some revenge on Wall Street. This could be a way for Democrats—facing the prospect of a Teapublican backlash in November—to show that they care about Main Street.

Last week, I noted my surprise that Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) had yet to add her name to the list of Nays, given that Sen. Russ Feingold, who's been Cantwell's Democratic ally when it comes to opposing President Obama's Wall Street policies for the past year, is on the list. (It's especially surprising given how gung ho Sen. Cantwell was when it came to demanding answers on AIG.)

Given Sen. Cantwell's recent claim to fame as a bank reform populist, she's in a position to help the Democrats redefine themselves with Main Street, and the Bernanke vote could be defining.

The latest word from Sen. Cantwell's office: "Still undecided."

The latest tally: 51 senators have publicly declared their support for Bernanke and 19 are voting Nay. That leaves 30, including Sen. Cantwell. Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) are the latest in the Yea column while Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) joined the list of Nays.
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