Chalk up a rare victory for the little guy (and the nation itself). The Bill To Audit Federal Reserve Passes Key Hurdle
In an unprecedented defeat for the Federal Reserve, an amendment to audit the multi-trillion dollar institution was approved by the House Finance Committee with an overwhelming and bipartisan 43-26 vote on Thursday afternoon despite harried last-minute lobbying from top Fed officials and the surprise opposition of Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who had previously been a supporter.
The measure, cosponsored by Reps. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), authorizes the Government Accountability Office to conduct a wide-ranging audit of the Fed’s opaque deals with foreign central banks and major U.S. financial institutions. The Fed has never had a real audit in its history and little is known of what it does with the trillions of dollars at its disposal.
Backers of the Watt amendment pressed their case on Wednesday by sending a letter from a “political cross section of prominent economists” backing a measure like Watt’s. HuffPost reported, however, that those economists might well have be prominent, but they certainly aren’t a “political cross section.” Seven of the eight economists in question have extensive connections to the Fed — and half of them are currently on the Fed payroll. Those affiliations were not noted in the letter.
The playbook in Washington often goes like this: When a measure that threatens the establishment builds enough momentum that it must be dealt with, it is labeled as “unserious.” The Washington Post editorial board, true to the script, called Paul’s measure “an unserious answer to a serious question.”
And it particularly rankles the center that a pair of “wingnuts” are behind a successful effort to challenge the prevailing order. [See Grayson Called “Wingnut” By New York Times].
For anyone remaining confused, the debate was further clarified by the central bank itself: Federal Reserve Vice Chair Don Cohn and General Counsel Scott Alvarez spent much of the day calling committee members, urging them to oppose the Paul-Grayson amendment in favor of Watt’s, a member of Congress who asked for confidentiality told HuffPost.
Paul’s opponents also placed a letter from former Fed chairmen Alan Greenspan and Paul Volcker on the seats of every committee member. Such a move is in violation of House rules and Grayson was able to have the letters removed.
As the day wore on and support held for the Paul-Grayson side, the Fed still could hope that both would pass. Watt’s amendment, which included additional restriction, would then trump Paul’s.
To counter that possibility, the Paul-Grayson side moved to fully replace Watt’s amendment with theirs, leaving only one amendment to vote on. The motion carried and the amendment passed in a landslide.
Frank said he was opposing the Paul amendment because it could be perceived as influencing monetary policy, which can have inflationary pressure. “Perception is very important in monetary policy,” said Frank.
He urged a no vote, yet 15 Democrats bucked him, voting with Paul.
“Today was Waterloo for Fed secrecy,” a victorious Grayson said afterwards.
Listen To Grayson
Clearly Grayson has this story cold. Equally as clearly, Barney Frank is a liar who never supported a true audit the Fed proposal in the first place.
Thanks to the Huffington Post for running these stories. Also thanks go to everyone who called, phoned, or faxed in support for the Ron Paul, Alan Grayson amendment.
Bear in mind there will be other attempts to water down this bill and/or to change it dramatically in the Senate. Be prepared to phone, fax, and call in again as necessary.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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