The Senate Banking Committee (search) backed Alan Greenspan (search) for a fifth and final term as chairman of the Federal Reserve (search) on Thursday, sending his nomination to the full Senate for final approval.

The panel approved the nomination on a voice vote with only one dissent -- long-time Fed critic Republican Sen. Jim Bunning (search) of Kentucky.

Greenspan's current term as chairman expires on Sunday, but he can continue to serve in an acting capacity if the Senate has not voted by then.

When the full Senate will act was not immediately clear, but the nomination is expected to garner wide support.

Greenspan, 78, took the helm at the central bank in 1987 when he was tapped to serve an unexpired term as a member of the Fed's board.

A fresh, four-year term as chairman will allow him to continue to serve at least through January 2006, when his separate 14-year term as board member expires.

Under the law, Fed board members can only serve one full term, and the chairman must be chosen from their ranks.

He could, however, continue to serve past January 2006 if not replaced by then.