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Mr. GREGG. Madam President, first off, at this point I congratulate the Senator from Vermont and express my appreciation for his very constructive approach to this issue. I had very serious reservations regarding his original amendment, but he has worked with Members of this side of the aisle, the chairman of the committee, and members of the administration and the Fed and has come up with an extremely responsible amendment.
The Senator's amendment gets to the issues which he is concerned about, which are totally legitimate; that is, the question of transparency and making sure, to the fullest extent possible, the American people know what is happening with this very significant agency that impacts our lives but which we know little about--a lot of Americans don't--and that is the Federal Reserve.
I also wish to congratulate Chairman Bernanke--he and his staff--for stepping forward and aggressively pursuing a resolution to this issue in a manner which I think will be very positive for both sides.
So I intend to support the amendment of the Senator from Vermont, as amended, and appreciate his offering it and appreciate his responsible effort. I do have, however, deep and severe reservations and strongly oppose the amendment of the Senator from Louisiana. The issue here isn't transparency any longer with the amendment of the Senator from Louisiana. The issue is whether we have a Federal Reserve which can function and can pursue its primary purpose, which is maintaining the integrity of the currency of the United States.
When the Federal Reserve was created back in 1917, there was a huge debate--a huge debate--raging in this Nation, and had been raging since the great depressions of 1897 and 1907--about how to manage the currency of this country. The central figure in that debate was William Jennings Bryan, a man of immense proportions in our history. He was a populist in the extreme, and he believed genuinely that there should be a monetary policy in this country which allowed for free money to be produced, essentially. His Cross of Gold Speech was, of course, historic. His view was, basically, those who were in control of the government--public elected officials--should have control over the currency.
But what had been learned over time was if you turn control of the currency over to elected officials, the currency becomes at risk because there is a natural tendency by elected bodies to want to produce money arbitrarily to take care of spending which they deem to be in the public interest.
Thanks to the leadership at that time of a number of thoughtful people, including people such as Woodrow Wilson, the decision was made to create a separate entity called the Federal Reserve, which would manage the currency of the United States and decide how much money was printed. The printing presses would be taken away from elected officials.
This decision has probably been one of the best decisions we ever made as a nation in order to determine a strong fiscal future and a strong economy because it has allowed us to have a currency which has basically been protected from the winds of the politics of the day. That is absolutely critical. It is as important today as it was when the Federal Reserve was created, if not more important today.
We have seen a world where there is a tremendous amount of pressure on the currencies of almost every nation, certainly every developed nation with the exception of a few. That pressure inevitably leads to populist outrage on occasion or to popular decisions which can request that the currency be devalued in order to produce what some people see as a better lifestyle or in order to address concerns a nation may have. But you cannot do that at the whim of elected officials. It is absolutely critical that the currency of the Nation be protected from the day-to-day activities of politics.
We have created this Federal Reserve System which accomplishes that. The essence of that system is the Open Market Committee, which decides essentially how much money there is going to be in circulation in this country. We have always believed that system should have integrity, be kept separate from the political process; that Members of the Congress should not have the ability, either directly or indirectly, to influence the decision of the printing of dollars in this Nation. It is a good decision and we should not abandon that course of action.
Yet the Vitter amendment, couched in all sorts of----
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Udall of New Mexico). The Senator from New Hampshire has used the 5 minutes he was yielded.
Mr. GREGG. I ask for 4 minutes out of the time of Senator Shelby.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. GREGG. The amendment offered by Senator Vitter unfortunately has, as its essence, the disassembling of this independence. It would give the Congress the ability, through the GAO--and because the GAO is an arm of the Congress, our accounting arm--to go in and investigate what happens with the Open Market Committee. That is clearly going to create consequences which would be inappropriate in the decisionmaking process of the Federal Reserve. It would influence their ability to make decisions in the sense they would be concerned about Congress coming in and investigating them. It would open activities which, if they are not done in some level of confidence, inevitably end up disrupting the markets. So it is absolutely critical that the Congress not be allowed to go into the Open Market Committee and audit that part of the Federal Reserve activities--absolutely critical if we are going to maintain the integrity of the dollar.
Remember, this is about Main Street. Whether that dollar you take on Main
Street to buy clothing or food or a car--whether that dollar has the value you think it has depends entirely on whether there is confidence it is not going to be inflated arbitrarily. If the political process starts to influence the decisions as to how much money is printed in this country and therefore affects the inflationary value of the dollar, you will see your dollars devalued as you try to buy items on Main Street. The effect of that will be devastating on your ability as an American citizen to have confidence in the dollars which you earn and what they are going to buy and what they are going to mean when you save them--which is even more important.
We cannot have a system which allows Congress to influence the decisions in this critical area. All the rest of the activities the Federal Reserve undertakes should be open, should be audited by the Congress, and should be available for public inspection on a regular basis. That is essentially what the amendment of Senator Sanders does. There is already a lot of audit activity at the Fed, but what it does is expand that and make it more transparent and more available to the American people. But in this one area which Congress has specifically by law exempted from review for the very logical and appropriate reason that we do not want the politics of the day to influence the decision as to the value of our currency, in this one area we need to keep the exception and give the Fed that type of protection.
I strongly oppose the Vitter amendment. I hope those who are concerned about maintaining the integrity of our currency will also oppose this amendment.
I yield the floor.
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