WASHINGTON — — President Barack Obama phoned Senate allies Saturday as two key senators predicted that embattled Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will be confirmed for a second term.
Obama made calls from the White House to members of the Senate leadership and others and was assured Bernanke would win confirmation, a senior White House official told The Associated Press. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private phone calls.
The Senate is scheduled to vote on the Bernanke confirmation by the end of this coming week, said Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
Meanwhile, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and former Senate Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg, R-N.H., said in a statement Saturday that Bernanke is the right person to help guide the economy back from the worst recession since the 1930s.
"In the last few days there have been a flurry of media reports on Chairman Bernanke's confirmation prospects, highlighting a very vocal opposition," Dodd and Gregg said. "Chairman Bernanke has done an excellent job responding to one of the most significant financial crises our country has ever encountered."
Declaring that Bernanke was "the right leader to guide the Federal Reserve in this recovering economy," Dodd and Gregg said they were confident he would win confirmation from the Senate. They based their comments on discussions with their colleagues.
Bernanke's term expires Jan. 31.
Dodd and Gregg were among those who voted in favor of Bernanke when the Senate Banking committee approved his renomination 16-7 last month.
Saturday's move came a day after two Democratic senators, Barbara Boxer of California and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, announced their opposition to Bernanke's renomination as head of the central bank, fueling speculation it could be scuttled.
Bernanke has become the focus of increased criticism since Republican Scott Brown won a Senate seat in an upset election in Massachusetts this past week.
Most of the Senate's 41 Republicans are expected to vote against Bernanke, meaning Democratic leaders can't afford too many of their colleagues also opposing him.
Dodd and Gregg have an easier time backing Bernanke than other senators--both are retiring at the end of the year and don't have to face voters this fall.
The Fed chief's supporters need 60 votes to prevent opponents from blocking confirmation.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent liberal from Vermont, and Republican senators Jim Bunning of Kentucky, Jim DeMint of South Carolina and David Vitter of Louisiana are spearheading a campaign to block Bernanke's confirmation.
Bernanke is widely credited with helping to prevent the Great Recession from turning into a second Great Depression. But his support of Wall Street bailouts has angered Americans who are struggling with double-digit unemployment and soaring home foreclosures.
On Friday, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel phoned senators urging support of Bernanke.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner also made calls to lawmakers, officials said.
The initial uncertainty about the outcome of Bernanke's nomination was seen as a sign that Democrats needs to do more to convince voters that the party feels their economic pain and will fight for them against powerful institutions.
Other signs of Democratic efforts to speak to the public's economic anxieties include new opposition by some lawmakers to the TARP, the $700 billion bank-bailout fund.
When Senate Republicans this week introduced an amendment to abolish the fund, 13 Democrats voted with them.
The Senate must approve an increase in the federal debt ceiling, but Democratic leaders are having trouble rounding up enough votes, in the face of voter anger about federal spending.
Tribune Newspapers and the Associated Press contributed to this article