Summers drops bid for Fed chair

Concerns over confirmation factor in decision to withdraw, according to letter sent to President Obama

Lawrence Summers has withdrawn his name for consideration as the successor to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.
Joshua Roberts

Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers called President Barack Obama on Sunday to withdraw his name from consideration to replace Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal.

In a letter delivered to Obama after the phone call, Summers told Obama he had "reluctantly concluded that any possible confirmation process for me would be acrimonious and would not serve the interest of the Federal Reserve, the Administration or, ultimately, the interests of the nation's ongoing economic recovery," the Journal reported.

The withdrawal forces the President to look at other candidates to fill Bernanke's position. Possible replacements include Janet Yellen, vice chairwoman of the Fed; Donald Kohn, a former vice chairman; and former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, although Geithner has said he doesn't want the job. Obama has interviewed Yellen and Kohn already, according to the Journal.

In a statement, Obama accepted Summers' decision and referred to him as "a critical member of my team as we faced down the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and it was in no small part because of his expertise, wisdom and leadership that we wrestled the economy back to growth and made the kind of progress we are seeing today."

Summers was widely seen as the favorite for the job, but growing opposition from some liberals, women's groups and key members of the Senate Banking Committee contributed to his decision to withdraw.

"The White House, after getting all this blowback from its own base, was essentially getting the sense that the confirmation process might be too troublesome, and Summers decided that specifically in his letter," Pedro Da Costa, a journalist who covers the Federal Reserve for Reuters, told Al Jazeera. 

The president has also been facing trouble with his liberal base on other fronts, including revelations about the National Security Agency's spying programs and his call for a military strike against Syria.

Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont.; Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.; and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said Friday they would vote against Summers' nomination -- which would have forced him to rely on Republican support in the Banking Committee, where Democrats have the majority by a three-vote margin, according to a report by The New York Times.  

Summers' withdrawal could make Yellen the leading candidate to replace Bernanke. Yellen, who became a member of the Fed's board of governors in 1994, would be the first woman to run the Fed.

Obama is expected to announce his nomination for the post as early as this month. Bernanke's term ends on Jan. 31, 2014.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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