- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Democrats successfully defended the Federal Reserve on Tuesday, voting to filibuster Sen. Rand Paul’s bill to force an audit on the secretive central bank as the effort fell victim to election-year politics.

Mr. Paul and his father, former Rep. Ron Paul, have made an audit the focus of their presidential campaigns, and the policy has won overwhelming bipartisan support in the House in past votes.

But in its first foray to the Senate floor, the policy met with unanimous opposition from Democrats in the upper chamber, who said they feared Republicans were trying to tilt the Fed’s focus more toward Wall Street concerns and less toward boosting job growth.

“This bill is not about auditing the Federal Reserve. It’s not about transparency or book keeping,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat. “This bill is about giving tea party Republicans and their billionaire donors the authority to control the United States economy.”

He rallied 42 Democrats, one independent and a lone Republican, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, to filibuster the bill, leaving it seven votes shy of the 60 needed to advance.

The bill would have allowed the Government Accountability Office, which is Congress’s nonpartisan investigative agency, to review the Fed’s decision-making on monetary policy and open-market agreements with foreign banks.

The push for an audit took off after the 2008 Wall Street collapse, when the Federal Reserve made decisions worth trillions of dollars, deeply affecting the U.S. economy.

Ron Paul turned the audit into a campaign slogan, regularly winning huge cheers from crowds during his failed 2012 presidential bid.

His son, Rand Paul, picked up the issue after his father’s retirement from Congress.

He said the bill was needed because top Fed officials regularly refuse to answer questions posed by both Republicans and Democrats about basics such as what foreign banks they have agreements with.

“Both Republicans and Democrats agree that it absurd that we do not know where hundreds of billions of dollars are going,” Mr. Paul said.

The push for an audit had been bipartisan until this year.

The House voted in 2014 for an audit by an overwhelming 333-92 tally, with majorities of Democrats and Republicans alike backing the GAO review.

That legislation was help up by Mr. Reid, who refused to allow a vote on it in the Senate. That marked a reversal for Mr. Reid, who had at one time indicated support for an audit.

Despite Senate Democrats’ opposition, the push for an audit remains popular, and is likely good politics.

Three current senators running for president voted for the audit, including Sen. Bernard Sanders, a Vermont independent who is seeking Democrats’ presidential nomination.

Though he usually votes in lockstep with Democrats, Mr. Sanders said the audit was a no-brainer.

“Requiring the Government Accountability Office to conduct a full and independent audit of the Fed each and every year would be an important step toward making the Federal Reserve a more democratic institution that is responsive to the needs of ordinary Americans rather than the billionaires on Wall Street,” he said in a statement.

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