Congressman from Bank of America guts Fed audit bill

Section:

Federal Reserve Policy Audit Legislation 'Gutted,' Paul Says

By Bob Ivry
Bloomberg News
Friday, October 30, 2009

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601103&sid=atc2o1ijLRno

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Rep. Paul, the Texas Republican who has called for an end to the Federal Reserve, said legislation he introduced to audit monetary policy has been "gutted" while moving toward a possible vote in the Democratic-controlled House.

The bill, with 308 co-sponsors, has been stripped of provisions that would remove Fed exemptions from audits of transactions with foreign central banks, monetary policy deliberations, transactions made under the direction of the Federal Open Market Committee, and communications between the board, the reserve banks, and staff, Paul said today.

"There's nothing left. It's been gutted," he said in a telephone interview. "This is not a partisan issue. People all over the country want to know what the Fed is up to, and this legislation was supposed to help them do that."

The Fed, led by Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, has come under greater congressional scrutiny while attempting to end the financial crisis by bailing out financial firms and more than doubling its balance sheet to $2.16 trillion in the past year. The central bank is also buying $1.25 trillion of securities tied to home loans.

Paul, a member of the House Financial Services Committee, said Mel Watt, a Democrat from North Carolina, has eliminated "just about everything" while preparing the legislation for formal consideration. Watt is chairman of the panel's domestic monetary policy and technology subcommittee.

Keith Kelly, a spokesman for Watt, declined to comment and said Watt wasn't immediately available for an interview. Watt's district includes Charlotte, headquarters of Bank of America Corp., the biggest U.S. lender.

Paul said he intends to introduce an amendment to the bill when it comes to the House floor for a vote restoring the legislation's original language.

Rep. Barney Frank, a Democrat from Massachusetts and chairman of the committee, said in interview that he intends to ensure legislation would provide a time lag between FOMC actions and the reporting of them.

Such a provision would "lessen the market impact," he said on Oct. 20. "The importance is to see that there are no abuses and to judge what they did."

The legislation will probably be included in a broader Democratic package of financial-regulation changes in the House, Frank said.

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