Rand Paul has taken up his dad's quest to audit the Fed. The Kentucky senator announced in a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid on Tuesday that he would put a hold on Janet Yellen's Fed chair nomination until there's an up-or-down vote on the bill. Ron Paul's version of the "Federal Reserve Transparency Act" passed the House with bipartisan support in July 2012, then died.
The younger Paul wrote to Reid, "as the Senate debates the nomination of the next head of the Federal Reserve, there is no more appropriate time to provide Congress with additional oversight and scrutiny of the actions and decisions of the central bank." So can Paul succeed? The bill did pass the House with support from 89 Democrats. But at the time, Reid said he would not take up the bill in the Senate. The most telling part of Paul's letter is the last line:
I know you have been a supporter of similar legislation in the past, and I hope we can work together to pass this important legislation.
Paul is calling Reid out. In the 1990s, Reid was a champion of bills aimed at exactly what Paul is trying to do: bring more transparency to the Fed. Conservatives have passed around this video of Reid in 1995 on the Senate floor (right).
Reid says, "I have sponsored legislation every year that would call for an audit of the Federal Reserve system. I offer that amendment every year, every year it gets nowhere." Reid has since moved away from this rhetoric. Why he did is unclear — maybe he sees it as a losing battle. In the same 1995 speech, he said,
"People just don't care about the Federal Reserve. Maybe it's because it's a subject that's not very interesting — it's not pornography, it's not murder, it's not an issue that deals with the Wild West."
So Paul is probably trying to intimidate Reid into bringing the bill to the floor. It's an interesting tactic, but one that probably won't work. Reid has already promised to force procedural votes on contentious nominations.