House GOP: Audit the Fed!

It's a last-ditch effort to alter/thwart Democratic financial reforms: House Republicans will force a floor vote today on Ron Paul's proposal for an audit of the Federal Reserve.

The effort is tied to America Speaking Out, the House GOP legislative crowd-sourcing website in which Republicans take suggestions from users on bills to propose. According to the House GOP, a fed audit is one of the suggestions most commonly offered through the website.

Paul introduced the Federal Reserve Transparency Act last spring; it would require the Government Accountability Office to conduct and audit and submit the results to Congress. The proposal is popular in the House, having gained 320 cosponsors, but probably wouldn't fare as well in the Senate: a related bill, introduced by Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, drew only two cosponsors.

The vote will come in the form of a Motion to Recommit, a parliamentary procedure that allows the minority party one last chance to alter a bill and send it back to committee before it is passed. Given how close Democrats are to passing financial reform, it's unlikely House Dems--even those who want to see a GAO audit of the Fed--will vote to send House and Senate negotiators back to the negotiating table.

The financial reform bill already has a compromise Fed-audit provision; the motion to recommit would replace it with Paul's language.

One intriguing political dimension of this is that Paul has somehow found himself, to some degree, in the mainstream: his skepticism of the Fed has gained traction not just among Tea Partiers, but among a majority of the House, including liberals, moderates, and Bush-era conservatives. Lynn Woolsey, who chairs the House Progressive Caucus, supports his bill; so does House Minority Leader John Boehner. House Republican leaders are pushing Paul's idea to combat the Democratic platform. I don't think we'll see Paul taking over as Minority Leader or Speaker next year, but it's tempting to call it a sign of the times that popular legislation by the libertarian outsider is being pushed by his party's establishment.