Q&A: Sen. Jeff Merkley on Bernanke Confirmation Battle

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D., Ore.) last month became the first Democrat to oppose Ben Bernanke’s confirmation for a second term as Federal Reserve chairman. (The leading liberal against Bernanke, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, is an independent.)  He’s been joined now by three other Democrats and a growing list of Republicans. We talked with him about how the Bernanke vote is shaping up among Democrats:

From where you stand, how does this nomination for Chairman Bernanke look right now?

A lot of folks have been coming up to me in the hall, saying that they want more information and that they’re seriously considering voting against him, or that they’re leaning towards voting against him.

Are they asking you for more information?

Some have. … The main points I’ve been making are that there are at least four major issues that happened in the course of the last eight years: expansion of proprietary trading, derivatives, the lifting of leverage and the failure to address the dysfunction in the [regulation of] mortgages — that is, the kickbacks, the yield spread premiums and the prepayment penalties. While not all of these were the responsibility of the Fed, very much in his role as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, as a member of the Fed, as chair of the Fed, he was at the economic policy table and did not raise concerns about these major issues that had systemic impact.