August 2, 2013

The July 27 article “Obama will not name Fed chairman until fall” stated that Ben Bernanke’s term as Federal Reserve chairman ends in January and “he has remained silent about whether he will remain in his post.” This suggested Bernanke could continue as chairman until his successor has been confirmed, should the Senate delay confirmation.

Bernanke could remain as a member of the Federal Reserve Board until 2020, but his term as chairman expires on Jan. 31. The Federal Reserve Act provides that “at meetings of the Board the chairman shall preside, and, in his absence, the vice chairman shall preside. In the absence of the chairman and the vice chairman, the board shall elect a member to act as chairman pro tempore.” Nothing in the act authorizes a chairman to serve beyond his or her four-year term. Indeed, when chairman Alan Greenspan’s renomination was delayed in 1996, the board specifically voted to appoint him as chairman pro tempore until he was reconfirmed. (At that time, there was a vacancy in the vice chairmanship.)

Bernanke could continue to serve as chairman only if vice chairman Janet Yellen left the board so that it could elect Bernanke as chairman pro tempore. 

Ken McLean, Arlington

The writer was staff director of the Senate Banking Committee from 1975 to 1981 and 1987 to 1989.