In a move that serves as a capstone to Rep. Ron Paul's colorful career, the House on Wednesday voted to have Congress' chief investigators conduct a full audit of the Federal Reserve's shrouded decision-making process.
The overwhelming 327-98 vote sends the measure to the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, at one time expressed support for an audit -- though he reportedly has changed his mind.
House passage already marks a high-water mark for those who for years have been pushing for an audit, led by Mr. Paul. The Texan rode the slogan "Audit the Fed" to prominence in two Republican presidential primary campaigns, and he said the bill is a chance for Congress to begin to reclaim the money and banking powers it is given in the Constitution, but had delegated to the Fed.
"It is up to us to reassert ourselves," Mr. Paul said during floor debate Tuesday.
Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke doesn't like the prospect of such a broad audit, calling it a "nightmare scenario" last week and saying it would lead to politicians second-guessing his decisions.
Opposition in Congress came chiefly from Democratic leaders, who said they doubt the bill ever becomes law -- but worried about sending a signal to financial markets that lawmakers want to intervene in financial affairs.
"It seems to me what we're talking about is taking some fake punches at the Federal Reserve but not doing anything serious," said Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee.
Every top Democratic leader voted against the bill, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, along with 95 other Democrats and one Republican, Rep. Robert L. Turner of New York.
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