- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 23, 2009

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday she is considering appointing a Republican to the new independent commission that will investigate the cause of the financial meltdown.

Doing so would increase the likelihood that the bipartisan panel would be split evenly among Republicans and Democrats.

Under anti-fraud legislation President Obama signed this week, Mrs. Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will appoint six people to the 10-member panel. Republican leaders are allotted the remaining four appointments, an uneven split that has called into question whether Democrats will hold too much sway.

“To tell you the honest truth, one of the people that I would like to appoint the most to the commission is a Republican,” Mrs. Pelosi told reporters at a Capitol Hill news conference.

The focus will be on getting “the best possible people,” the California Democrat said.

Democrats are comparing the “Financial Markets Commission” to the high-profile panels that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the Iraq war. Those panels were equally split, with five Democrats and five Republicans serving in each instance.

One obvious choice would seem to be Jim Leach, a former Iowa Republican congressman who led the House banking committee. Mr. Leach, a moderate, endorsed Mr. Obama’s campaign and represented the president at a global economic summit last fall.

But Mrs. Pelosi won’t name names, and aides say Mr. Leach isn’t being pursued.

Mr. Leach, now a visiting professor at Princeton, said it would be inappropriate to comment on whether he has been approached. He has, however, indicated his support for the creation of such a commission.

“Congress did inadequate oversight in the past,” he said Friday. “There’s clearly catching up to do.”

The financial meltdown commission will be given $5 million to study how the government failed to protect investors and the role financial fraud may have played in the meltdown. It also will issue recommendations on reforming regulation of the financial markets and other steps to salvage the economy.

Lawmakers say they won’t wait for the group to issue its findings in December 2010 before moving forward on their own ideas. The House Financial Services Committee plans to take up legislation in June that would give the government authority to wind down nonbank institutions like AIG that have threatened the financial system.

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