An election-year budget standoff has immobilized Congress — and the Federal Reserve is the only government agency than can help the economy.

That was the view pushed Tuesday by a leading Democrat as Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke testified to the Senate Banking Committee.

"Given the political realities of this year's election, I believe the Fed is the only game in town," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said. "I would urge you, now more than ever, to take whatever actions are warranted."

"So get to work, Mr. Chairman," Schumer added.

Without a budget deal, tax increases and spending cuts will take effect Jan. 1.

Bernanke acknowledged that the economy could suffer a recession if Congress doesn't reach a deal. But he was noncommittal about taking further steps.