Powerful House Financial Services Committee chairman says central bank's lending powers to be 'curtailed'
Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA), one of the most unabashed liberals in the U.S. House of Representatives, told a Massachusetts town hall recently that Texas Republican Congressman Ron Paul's bill to audit the Federal Reserve will clear his chamber by October.
Over half of the House members, most of them Republican, have signed on to the bill, H.R. 1207.
Though Frank disagrees — as many proponents of the bill contend — that the Fed is the cause of the U.S. dollar's shrinking value, he told a Massachusetts audience that he's been a proponent of greater transparency at the nation's central bank for some time.
"Here's what we plan to do: I want to restrict the powers of the Federal Reserve in a number of ways," he said. "First of all, they will be the major losers of power if we're successful, as I believe we will be, setting up that, uh, financial product protection committee."
The committee Frank mentioned was proposed by President Barack Obama during the campaign, as a way of protecting consumers. It was formally presented to Congress in the President's financial regulatory reform white papers in July, noted law firm Wiley Rein LLP.
"The Federal Reserve is now charged with protecting consumers," continued Frank. "They were supposed to do sub-prime mortgage restricted … Congress in 1994 gave the Federal Reserve the power to adopt rules to ban bad sub-prime mortgages. … They have the power to ban credit card abuses. They have the power to do most of it. They, under Greenspan, did nothing.
"Under Bernanke, they started to do things, but only after Congress started, when I became chairman of the [House Financial Services Committee], we began to act on these things: Sub-prime mortgages, credit cards, overdraft … And after we started, the Fed did. So, that's why one of the reasons why in the new consumer protection agency we will take away from the Federal Reserve the power to do consumer protection."
Frank added that Congress will reverse an action by the Democratic Congress of 1932 that gives the Fed authority to lend money at will.
"Under section 13.3 of the Federal Reserve Act, they can lend money to whoever they want," he said. "We are going to curtail that lending power. We are going to put some constraints on it."
He concluded: "Finally, we are going to subject them to a complete audit. I've been working with Ron Paul, the main sponsor of that bill …" Several in the audience applauded. "He believes that we don't want to have the audit appear as if it is influencing monetary policy because that would be inflationary … One of the things that will show you is what the Federal Reserve buys and sells. That will be made public, but not instantly. If it were instant, you would have a lot of people trading off that and it would have too much impact on the market. Again, Ron agrees with that. So, we will probably have that data released after a time period of several months — enough time so it won't be market sensitive."