Ron Paul’s retirement from Congress doesn’t mean Federal Reserve officials can rest any easier.
Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga., is moving rapidly to assume the Texas Republican’s mantle, pressuring lawmakers to get a tighter grip on the central bank.
Broun has replaced Paul in pushing for a bipartisan proposal (HR 24) to require the comptroller general to conduct a mandatory audit of the Federal Reserve. The proposal is similar to one sponsored by Paul that died in the Senate in the 112th Congress, after passing the House 327-97 in July.
While Broun’s bill faces strong opposition from senior Democrats in the Senate, who see it as an intrusion on the central bank’s authority, the measure appears to be well-positioned for a revival in the House, where members of both parties, particularly from rural districts, have argued for more aggressive oversight of the Federal Reserve.
The campaign for an audit of the Fed has been propelled by critics concerned about the declining value of the dollar. The audit would focus in part on the development of monetary policy by the central bank. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke has argued strongly against the audit legislation on the grounds that it would interfere with operations of the central bank and its handling of monetary policy.
But Broun says he believes support for the legislation is growing.
“It has a lot of support. ... We’re going to try to get enough pressure so that hopefully the Senate will pass it. We’re going to push it real hard,” Broun said. “We’re going to audit the Fed from top to bottom, once we get this enacted.”
The measure has 67 co-sponsors, including several Democrats such as Collin C. Peterson of Minnesota, Peter A. DeFazio of Oregon and Dave Loebsack of Iowa.
Broun said he hoped to work with Senate allies to try to build a broader base of support for the bill in the Senate. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, the son of the former Texas lawmaker, is expected to lead the push there.
The measure would require the Government Accountability Office to complete an audit of the Federal Reserve in one year and file a report with recommendations for legislative or administrative action. The GAO does not have authority to audit the Federal Reserve under current law.
Broun has declined to comment on a possible 2014 primary challenge to Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga. The senator is a close friend of Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, and bucked his party’s right wing last year by joining a small group of senators led by Democrat Mark Warner of Virginia that tried unsuccessfully to produce a bipartisan debt reduction plan with a blend of spending cuts and new tax revenue.
Political experts say Broun’s emphasis on issues championed by Ron Paul could have strong appeal to tea party supporters.
“He anchors the right wing, the libertarian wing of the Georgia Republican Party,” said Merle Black, a political scientist at Emory University, referring to Broun.
Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia, said Broun is one of several potential primary challengers to Chambliss in the 2014 election, along with Rep. Tom Price, a former chairman of the Republican Study Committee.
Broun said the Liberty Caucus once led by Ron Paul is preparing to organize for the 113th Congress. He is one of more than a dozen members of the House Republican Conference that have been associated with that caucus.
Broun said he would also push for legislation to reduce the overall clout of the central bank. He has sponsored a proposal (HR 73) to abolish the Federal Reserve Board. He also has argued for a return to hard currency based on the gold standard, saying it would be preferable to U.S. dollars and coins that are declining in value.