- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 5, 2009

An independent probe of the Wall Street crisis could be one step closer to a reality as the House is expected to sign off this week on a Senate-approved bill that would create a bipartisan, 10-member panel modeled on the 9/11 Commission to investigate the financial meltdown.

The Financial Markets Commission would be granted subpoena power to study whether fraud, abuse or lax oversight by regulators caused the economic downturn. It would have 18 months to report its findings to Capitol Hill.

The Senate measure, offered as an amendment to a larger bill that expands enforcement against mortgage fraud, was approved in April by a vote of 92-4. Sponsored by Sens. Kent Conrad, North Dakota Democrat, and Johnny Isakson, Georgia Republican, it is similar to legislation introduced last fall by Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican.

“This commission should be about finding the truth of the causes and being fair in evaluating whether proposed solutions are making the problem better or worse,” said Mr. Issa, ranking member on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Under the Senate bill, members of the commission would be appointed by Democratic and Republican leaders. The legislation bars current members of Congress from serving on the panel.

The commission would look at lending practices as well as the role of credit-default swaps and hedge-fund activities in contributing to the financial crisis.

According to Democratic and Republican House aides, a House vote on the Senate bill could take place as early as Wednesday.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman John B. Larson, who like Mr. Issa has been calling for a commission since last fall, said the effort is necessary to prevent such a crisis from occurring again.

“I think most importantly, the American people need answers, and I think they need a narrative,” the Connecticut Democrat said. “To have that understanding and be able to have the committee periodically report back on some of its findings is going to be extraordinarily helpful to a legislature that finds itself digging out of a deep, cavernous hole.”

Nadeam Elshami, a spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said both chambers “share the same goals” when it comes to the commission, but noted that the House version may differ on specifics.

“We’re moving quickly on this. We hope to reach agreement whether through conference or other means and get a bill to the president as quickly as possible,” he said.

Mr. Issa has suggested that former Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor be tapped to lead the commission.

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