Fed Audit Shield Takes Blow After Ron Paul Proposal Advances

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"This is the bill that would allow the people to win over the special interests."

The Federal Reserve's shield from congressional audits of interest-rate decisions took a blow from lawmakers who want to open the central bank's books to greater congressional scrutiny.

The House Financial Services Committee yesterday advanced a proposal to remove a three-decade ban on audits of monetary policy and carry out an examination of the central bank. The plan was offered by Representative Ron Paul, a Republican from Texas who has called for the abolition of the Fed, and based on a bill with more than 300 cosponsors.

Lawmakers say the Fed hasn't adequately accounted for putting taxpayer funds at risk, including aid to companies such as Citigroup Inc. and American International Group Inc. Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke has opposed the Paul legislation, saying it may open the door to interference in monetary policy.

The broader bill on financial regulation is subject to a vote by the committee, then must be approved by the House and Senate and signed into law by President Barack Obama.

"This is the bill that would allow the people to win over the special interests," Paul said during debate on the measures yesterday. "There is no doubt that the individuals opposing this amendment represent the secrecy of the Federal Reserve." An audit "shouldn't hurt them in any way," he said.

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