reported Thursday that U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) may attach his Audit the Fed bill to the debt ceiling increase, which could come as early as March. One way or another, Paul expects a vote on his bill in 2015 and is confident it will pass.
The most immediate obstacle over the last few years for any bill that increases congressional oversight at the Federal Reserve has been the Senate; more specifically, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.). As Senate majority leader, Reid refused to let his colleagues vote on the legislation even though Audit the Fed bills passed the U.S. House with major bipartisan support in the last two sessions of Congress.
However, now that the Democratic Party has lost majority status in the upper chamber, Reid no longer has that power over legislation and Paul has key allies in his effort to finally pass Audit the Fed legislation in the Senate. Among these allies is current Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who is a cosponsor on the bill.
Paul, who may announce his intentions to launch a 2016 presidential campaign in April (according to the New York Times), will seek all available options to ensure a vote happens, whether through regular order (the bill passes on its own) or by attaching the legislation to a must-pass bill like raising the debt ceiling.
"The strategy going forward will be to use regular order," Paul spokesman Brian Darling said in an interview for The Hill. "If regular order does not work, Audit the Fed would be a great amendment to a debt-limit increase or any other piece of must pass legislation that hits the Senate floor.”
The Treasury Department will reach its borrowing limit (the “debt ceiling”) around mid-March, which means Congress could vote on raising the limit within the next month. However, experts say Treasury Secretary Jack Lew could use “extraordinary measures” to keep the government financed until summer or early fall.
While 2015 may be the best opportunity Paul has at passing Audit the Fed legislation in the Senate, it remains unclear how much opposition he will get from Democrats. Paul’s bill has one Democratic cosponsor, U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono (Hawaii). If Democrats present a mostly united front on Republican-backed measures, the bill may not survive a filibuster on its own.
Along with Reid, major Democratic opposition in the Senate includes Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and other officials with the central bank have also been outspoken in their disagreement with the plan, saying it will politicize the Fed’s activities.
New Audit the Fed legislation was also introduced in the U.S. House by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.). Given the success of previous versions of the bill in the last two congressional sessions, the legislation is expected to pass without difficulty and with much larger bipartisan support than it appears to have in the Senate.
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