The Senate approved an amendment to the regulatory overhaul bill to audit the Federal Reserve’s emergency-lending programs during the financial crisis.
The Senate voted 96-0 Tuesday on the proposal offered by Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., to allow a congressional watchdog to conduct a one-time audit of every Fed emergency action since December 2007.
The amendment is aimed at forcing the Fed to release information about its use of emergency powers to help rescue financial firms during the crisis. Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke used Depression-era emergency authority to loan billions of dollars to U.S. corporations and bond dealers, and to rescue Bear Stearns and American International Group.
Mr. Sanders last week narrowed the amendment in response to concerns raised by Mr. Bernanke, the Treasury Department and senators that his original amendment calling for broader audits could threaten the central bank’s independence. The change drew support from Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., who wrote the broader financial bill.
Mr. Sanders revised his proposal to seek a one-time audit by the Government Accountability Office from Dec. 1, 2007, through the date of the bill’s enactment, of Fed loans and financial assistance, including foreign currency swap lines. The amendment also requires the Fed to publish on its website the names of businesses, people and foreign central banks that got aid, the type of assistance, amounts and other information.