Fed to Come Under ‘Rigorous’ House Scrutiny, Hensarling Says

Representative Jeb Hensarling, chairman of the U.S. House committee that oversees the Federal Reserve, said he plans to subject the Fed to unprecedented scrutiny while considering legislation over the coming year that may focus on its structure, mandates and powers.

“It will be the most rigorous examination and oversight of the Federal Reserve in its history,” Hensarling, a Republican from Texas and Financial Services Committee chairman, said today to reporters, referring to a series of hearings scheduled to start tomorrow. “We will be studying the history, purposes and policies of the Fed.”

The Fed came under tougher congressional oversight during the 2008 financial crisis as it rescued Bear Stearns Cos. and insurer American International Group Inc., and created credit mechanisms to support money-market funds and markets for commercial paper and securitizations.

Hensarling’s plan shows that the Republican Party aims to “regroup” and promote a critical view toward Fed policy, said Sarah Binder, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. Before becoming law, any legislation passed by Hensarling’s committee would need to gain the support of the full House, the Democratic-controlled Senate and President Barack Obama.

Republican lawmakers want to “provide an alternative voice to the Fed,” she said. “As the Fed tries to deal with its exit” from unprecedented stimulus, “they want to put on more pressure.”

Legislative efforts during the financial crisis to strip the central bank of bank supervisory powers and require a monetary-policy audit didn’t win passage.

Hearing Tomorrow

The committee’s hearing tomorrow in Washington is entitled, “Re-Examining the Federal Reserve’s Many Mandates on Its 100-Year Anniversary.”

“The Fed is independent but it’s not unaccountable,” said Representative John Campbell, a Republican from California and chairman of the panel’s Monetary Policy and Trade subcommittee. He is assisting Hensarling in the project to scrutinize the Fed.

The congressional review coincides with a debate among Fed policy makers on how to wind down a third round of bond buying, or quantitative easing, that has pushed the Fed’s balance sheet to a record $3.93 trillion.

The central bank is also undergoing a leadership transition. Ben S. Bernanke’s second term as chairman ends Jan. 31, and Obama has nominated Vice Chairman Janet Yellen to succeed him. She is awaiting a confirmation vote from the full Senate.

Leading Candidate

Former Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer is Obama’s leading candidate to replace Yellen in the vice chairman position, people familiar with the selection process told Bloomberg News today.

The Federal Open Market Committee meets next week to discuss monetary stimulus, including its monthly purchase of $85 billion in bonds.

“We will be examining what has become an all-too-gray area between fiscal and monetary policy,” Hensarling said to reporters.

“We’ll be examining the area of credit allocation, picking winners and losers, we will take a look very carefully at the Federal Reserve’s lender-of-last resort actions and policies,” he said.

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