Fed's Bernanke to testify on monetary policy on February 26-27

U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will deliver two days of congressional testimony on monetary policy and on the economy on February 26 and 27, committee aides said on Tuesday.

Bernanke will deliver the central bank's semi-annual monetary policy report to the Senate Banking Committee at 10 a.m. on February 26, and follow up the next day at 10 a.m. before the House Financial Services Committee.

The appearances will give lawmakers a chance to quiz the Fed chairman about the state of the U.S. recovery and the aggressive monetary policy actions he has led.

Republicans hotly criticize the central bank for massive bond purchases that have tripled the size of its balance sheet to about $3 trillion since 2008. They charge this has enabled runaway deficit spending by Democratic President Barack Obama, at the risk of creating future inflation.

Two Republican members of the Democrat-controlled Senate panel, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, introduced legislation on Monday that would trim the Fed's mandate to a sole focus on inflation. Currently, the Fed is charged with pursuing both price stability and full employment.

"The dual mandate blurs the line between fiscal and monetary policy and allows Congress to shirk its responsibility to enact sound budgets and policies that produce economic growth," Corker said in a statement.

The Fed has undertaken unprecedented measures to support the U.S. economy in the aftermath of the severe 2007-2009 recession and financial crisis. It has held overnight interest rates near zero since late 2008 and conducted three rounds of bond purchasing programs to lower longer-term borrowing costs. It is currently purchasing $85 billion in bonds per month.

(Reporting by Alister Bull; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)