Ted Cruz Could Be Trouble for the Next Fed Chair

National Journal

Whether the next chair of the Federal Reserve Board is Janet Yellen, Lawrence Summers, or anyone else, there may be some trouble getting through the Senate. That's at least if Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has his way. That's because in the Fed chair selection, Cruz sees a potential way to pass legislation that would amp up Fed oversight.

Cruz, along with Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, headlined a Young Americans for Liberty conference Wednesday night in Arlington, Va. The three were welcomed as superheroes by the college-age crowd, with standing ovations and chants of "President Rand!" Cruz knew his audience: "It seems there may be a few wacko-birds in the house," he began, to cheers. "It is an honor to join ya'll."

It was probably one of the only crowds of young 20-somethings in America where one of the loudest responses could come when the panel's moderator turned to the Federal Reserve--specifically asking about the future of the "Audit the Fed" bill. That measure, which called for broader operation audits of the Fed, easily passed the House with big bipartisan support last year, but died in the Senate.

No one on the panel was ready to give up on the bill. Sen. Paul, who reintroduced a version of it to the Senate in February (with both Lee and Cruz cosponsoring), said its passage was a "long shot" but that he is still hopeful.

Cruz, though, gave some idea of how supporters could get an audit done. With Ben Bernanke likely stepping down, the Senate will need to confirm a new Fed chair later this year. "That gives the opportunity to leverage," Cruz said. "I certainly hope that, working together, we could force a vote on the Audit the Fed bill."

What that "force" would look like isn't really clear. Would it be another nominee filibuster, a la John Brennan? Or would Cruz (and possibly Paul and Lee) use the relatively broad, bipartisan support behind the Audit the Fed bill (now called the Federal Reserve Transparency Act of 2013, with 24 cosponsors) to push Majority Leader Harry Reid for a vote?

As with every proposal and policy mentioned by the senators Wednesday night, the three stressed that nothing can get done without the support of the young, grassroots liberty movement. "I think of The Proclaimers," Sen. Paul said, quoting the band's 1988 hit song "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)," and celebrating the passion that song evokes. Judging by the roaring "End the Fed" chant that accompanied Cruz's remarks, that passion is out there. It's now just a matter of how it will translate to the largely passionless Senate.

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