WASHINGTON President Barack Obama suggested he might not renominate Ben Bernanke for a third term as chairman of the Federal Reserve, saying the central bank chief has already stayed in the job longer than originally planned.
In a PBS interview that aired late Monday, Obama did not directly answer a question about whether he would renominate Bernanke, whose term as chairman ends in January.
Instead, Obama praised Bernanke and compared him to FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, who is stepping down in September after 12 years on the job. “I think Ben Bernanke’s done an outstanding job,” Obama told PBS’s Charlie Rose in the interview taped Sunday.
“Ben Bernanke’s a little bit like Bob Mueller, the head of the FBI, where he’s already stayed a lot longer than he wanted or he was supposed to,” Obama said.
With the Fed playing an oversized role in the U.S. economy, investors and analysts are keenly interested in who will be heading the central bank next year and beyond.
Fed policymakers are grappling with when and how to start pulling back on their unprecedented stimulus efforts.
Bernanke guided the central bank through the Great Recession and financial crisis and could be ready to step aside after more than seven grueling years in the job. But he also could decide he would like to continue leading the Fed through the complicated process of unwinding its controversial stimulus programs.
The Fed’s Open Market Committee started a two-day meeting Tuesday, and Bernanke is set to hold his quarterly news conference Wednesday amid speculation that the central bank soon might start reducing its $85 billion in monthly bond purchases designed to boost the recovery.
Bernanke, who has been Fed chairman since Feb. 1, 2006, is a Republican who was originally tapped for the job by President George W. Bush.
Bernanke hasn’t indicated if he would seek another term. His second four-year term ends on Jan. 31.
Asked at a congressional hearing last month whether he would accept another term if Obama offered it, Bernanke said, “I’m not prepared to answer that question now.”
Bernanke probably will be pushed for an answer on his future at Wednesday’s news conference.
In the PBS interview, Obama lauded Bernanke’s leadership of the Fed and noted that its policies have helped the U.S. rebound more strongly from the financial crisis than the eurozone, which is stuck in another recession.
“He has been an outstanding partner along with the White House in helping us recover much stronger than, for example, our European partners, from what could have been an economic crisis of epic proportions,” Obama said.
Most analysts believe that the leading choice to succeed Bernanke would be Fed Vice Chair Janet L. Yellen, the former head of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. She has been closely allied with Bernanke and has strongly supported the Fed’s stimulus efforts.
Obama likely must make a decision this summer to give the Senate time to approve his nominee. When Obama renominated Bernanke for a second term in 2009, the decision was announced in late August.
The Senate confirmed Bernanke in January 2010 by a 70-30 vote amid concerns by many Republicans and some Democrats about the Fed’s easy-money policies and the pace of the economic recovery.
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