With 274 co-sponsors, H.R. 459, Ron Paul's bill to audit the Federal Reserve Bank, went to the House floor for a full vote one last time Wednesday and passed 327 to 98. All but one Republican voted for it, along with 89 Democrats.
The bill's sponsor, 76-year-old Texas congressman Ron Paul, is serving his final term in the House and will retire from electoral politics after this year. Paul is notorious for his opposition to the Federal Reserve and commitment to greater transparency in all areas of public policy, especially finance and banking. Calling today's vote, "Ron Paul's swan song," The Politico notes just how far the issue of Fed transparency has come:
"To understand how remarkable this moment is — coming near the end of Paul’s congressional career — consider this: When Paul first introduced his bill a decade ago, it was written off as another piece of his far-flung libertarian worldview. For a long time, Paul was a lawmaker who was largely ignored by Washington — that guy on the losing end of 414-1 votes. And now his Fed transparency bill has 270 co-sponsors — including the great majority of the Republican lawmakers and a good number of Democrats. It’s a sign that this issue has moved into the mainstream, even if Ron Paul himself has not."
The Democratic House leadership opposed the bill on grounds that it would open economic decisions to politicization by the Congress. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said:
"This bill would instead jeopardize the Fed's independence by subjecting its decisions on interest rates and monetary policy to GAO audit. I agree with [Fed] Chairman [Ben] Bernanke that congressional review of the Fed's monetary policy decisions would be a 'nightmare scenario,' especially judging by the track record of this Congress when it comes to governing effectively."
Although several senior Democrats in the House oppose the bill, Hoyer said his party leadership would not be whipping Democratic colleagues on the Fed audit vote, and not all of them agree with House leadership. 89 Democrats broke ranks with their party to vote for the Fed audit bill. Just before the vote, Rep. Dennis Kucinich argued passionately in favor of the Fed audit on the House floor:
"The Fed creates trillions of dollars out of nothing and gives it to banks. Congress is in the dark. The Fed sets the stage for the subprime meltdown. Congress is in the dark. The Fed takes a dive on LIBOR. Congress is in the dark. The Fed doesn’t tell regulators what is going on. Congress is in the dark."
While the vote represents a step forward for Fed transparency advocates, the bill is expected to fail in the US Senate.