The Fed

Agreement between committee chairmen in the House and Senate is usually all it takes to send a bill winging its way toward passage. But even the combined support of House Banking Committee Chairman Henry B. Gonzalez (D-Tex.) and Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.), who is expected to take over the Senate banking panel after the retirement of Michigan Democrat Donald W. Riegle Jr. next year, probably won't be enough to move legislation that would put the Federal Reserve under tighter political control. Gonzalez called Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan before his committee on Oct. 13 to discuss a measure that would make the Fed's deliberations more public. In a more radical change, the bill would also take away the 12 regional Fed banks' power to name their own chief executives, making them Presidential appointees instead. Both ideas are old Democratic chestnuts but are winning even less support than they have in the past. And President Clinton knocked the wind out of Fed reformers' sails by coming out against the bill. Why so little enthusiasm for the always popular sport of Fed bashing? It has been four years since the central bank last raised interest rates, explains an Administration official, "so no one is mad at it."

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