Washington – The Senate voted 96 to 0 Tuesday to open the secretive Federal Reserve Board’s emergency lending practices to a congressional audit, as well as require a detailed disclosure of who’s getting the funds.
“We are on the verge of lifting the veil of secrecy on perhaps the most important government agency in the United States of America,” said amendment sponsor Sen. Bernard Sanders, Ind.-Vt., “an agency which has control and spends trillions of dollars. They do it behind closed doors.”
Under the plan, Congress’ Government Accountability Office would conduct “a top to bottom audit of all the Federal Reserve’s emergency activities” since the economic crisis began in December, 2007. In addition, the Fed would have to put on its web site all recipients of money from than $2 trillion in emergency aid that the Fed has dispersed since then.
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The audit is the Senate’s latest change to legislation that would overhaul the nation’s financial regulatory system, making it easier for the government to break up ailing banks and provide a strong, independent consumer agency to help people with credit questions and problems.
The Senate debate is in its second week, with Democratic leaders hoping for a final vote later this week. Still to come are disputes over how to deal with derivatives, the exotic financial instruments that helped spur the 2008 economic collapse, as well as questions about how to deal with government-sponsored mortgage finance titans Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
If the Senate passes the legislation, next it will have to be reconciled with a similar bill that the House of Representatives passed last year, with final compromise terms then having to pass both houses of Congress before President Barack Obama could sign it into law.