WASHINGTON — The Senate is "unlikely" to hold a confirmation vote this week on Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's second term at the helm of the central bank, a senior Democratic leadership aide said Thursday.

Earlier this week, leadership aides said it was possible lawmakers would seek to vote on Bernanke's confirmation on Friday, but that now seems doubtful, the aide said.

The Fed chief's four year-term ends on Jan. 31. If the Senate fails to approve him before then, Bernanke could continue as a governor of the Fed's Monetary Policy Committee. The law is unclear whether he could continue as chairman or whether Vice Chairman Donald Kohn would temporarily replace him.

Senate Banking Chairman Christopher Dodd (D., Conn.) said this week that he believes that Kohn would replace Bernanke if a vote isn't held by Jan. 31.

Bernanke is widely expected to be confirmed once a vote is held, but there are a handful of lawmakers preventing the Senate from moving directly to a vote. One of those, Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent who generally votes with the Democratic majority, is pressing for President Barack Obama to withdraw Bernanke's nomination and select another candidate to lead the Fed.

The lawmakers can't derail Bernanke serving a second term, but they can force the Democratic leadership to overcome a number of procedural hurdles, dragging the process out.

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