Rand Paul gets Senate vote on auditing the Fed

Paul's 2016 deadline dilemma: Senate or White House?
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Story highlights

  • The Senate will vote on whether to take up the "Audit the Fed" bill, which is popular with many conservative voters.
  • It is not expected to get the 60 votes needed to proceed

Washington (CNN)Sen. Rand Paul's struggling presidential campaign is getting a boost from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who scheduled a vote for Tuesday on a top priority of Paul's: a bill to audit the Federal Reserve.

The Senate will vote on whether to take up the legislation, which is popular with many conservative voters. It's expected to fall short of the 60 votes needed to begin debate but nevertheless could draw attention to the Kentucky libertarian ahead of Thursday's Republican presidential debate.
Using his power as majority leader, McConnell made Paul's bill the first legislative item of the New Year. It comes weeks before presidential voting begins in the critical Iowa caucuses where Paul is polling at just 2 percent, according to a new Quinnipiac poll released Monday.
The measure has 25 co-sponsors in the Senate including McConnell, who backs Paul for president, Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, as well as Paul's rival's for the White House, Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas.
The new audits, which would be more expansive than currently allowed, "would bring to an end the Federal Reserve's unchecked -- and even arguably unconstitutional -- power in the financial markets and the economy," Paul argued in a Time commentary published Monday.
Paul is furious at the role the Fed played in the 2008 fiscal crisis when it took on trillions in debt as it helped bail out failing financial institutions. He called it a "political, oligarchic force, and a key part of what looks and functions like a banking cartel."
"Clearly, the country needs to understand fully the extent of the Fed's balance sheet: what it holds an from whom it was acquired, as well as all the Fed's other activities and conceivably even more dangerous shenanigans afoot," Paul wrote.
But Democrats argued the Government Accountability Office, which is an arm of Congress, already audits the Federal Reserve and that Paul's proposal would destroy the Fed's independence.
"Political parties should not run monetary policy at the Federal Reserve," Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said in a floor speech Monday. "It is obvious to me that the audit-the-Fed is an attempt to allow Congress to be able to put pressure on Fed members relative to monetary policy."
Nevertheless, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is going to vote for Paul's measure and a couple of other Democrats might too, according to Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin.
"We have about three members that we are speaking to on the Democratic side who are still making up their minds. Bernie Sanders is going to vote for it. But there are a couple others who are thinking about it," he said.