Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont, has put a “hold” on Bernanke’s reconfirmation as Fed chairman. This procedural device prevents a vote of the full Senate on his nomination and can be overcome by a 60 vote supermajority.
The move is no great surprise. Holds are a common feature of life in the Senate. Sanders, a lone socialist, does not represent a larger faction in the legislature. Most Hill-watchers think that in the end – after a lot of griping about the Fed – there will easily be the 60 votes required to overcome the hold and reconfirm Bernanke on a bipartisan basis.
Even if there were not enough votes to overcome the hold, Bernanke could simply continue in office as the incumbent Fed chairman. However, it is not certain he would want to stick around if he could not find 60 senators to support him.
The probability that this process ends in Bernanke not taking on his second term remains very very low – but it is not quite zero.