In hopes of avoiding another severe financial crisis, the Senate on Thursday approved the most extensive overhaul of Wall Street regulation since the 1930s. Sen. Bernie Sanders voted for the measure that he called a “modest step forward.” It includes his provision to audit the Federal Reserve, but no cap on credit card interest rates and no meaningful provision to break up banks considered too big to fail. While Congress worked to put in place safeguards against another economic catastrophe, the gulf oil spill disaster worsened. Sanders praised stricter fuel standards announced by the White House on Friday, but earlier in the week clashed with a Cabinet official at an energy committee hearing over continued offshore drilling.
Wall Street Reform The final vote was 59 to 39 for the legislation which still must be reconciled with a House version of the bill. Afterward, Sanders assessed the bill. “As a result of the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior of Wall Street, this country was plunged into a horrendous recession. While this bill does not go as far as I would like, it is a strong beginning in the effort to reregulate huge financial institutions and to bring transparency to their often nefarious activities.”
The Fed The bill includes a major provision by Sanders which, for the first time, will lift the veil of secrecy at the Federal Reserve and give the American people an understanding of where trillions of their tax dollars went in the Wall Street bailout. Under the amendment, the Government Accountability Office would conduct a top-to-bottom audit of all emergency actions by the Fed since the start of the financial crisis in 2007. The non-partisan research arm of Congress specifically would be directed to investigate apparent conflicts of interest involving the Fed and CEOs of the largest financial institutions in the country. In addition, the Fed would have to reveal by Dec. 1, 2010, the identities of banks and other financial institutions that took more than $2 trillion in nearly zero-interest loans.
Credit Cards “I am disappointed that we could not garner the necessary votes to lower interest rates on credit cards or to begin the process of breaking up the largest financial institutions in this country which are the cause of so many of our problems. I intend to continue that effort until we succeed.” The Senate on Wednesday night killed a measure by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse that would have required credit-card issuers to abide by interest rate limits imposed by the states. The vote was 35 to 60.
Offshore Drilling Moratorium The benefits of offshore oil drilling are far outweighed by the risks, Senator Bernie Sanders argued at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on Tuesday. The senator questioned Interior Secretary Ken Salazar about a moratorium on offshore drilling in the aftermath of the April 20 blowout at the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. "The reality,” according to Salazar, “is we will be depending on oil and gas as we transition to a new energy future. You are not going to turn off the lights of this country or the economy by shutting it all down. The reality, according to the Energy Information Administration, is that oil does not keep the lights on. Petroleum accounted for less than 1 percent of electricity generated in the U.S. last year. To watch the senator at the energy committee hearing, click here.
Fuel Economy Sanders on Friday praised President Obama for ordering better fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks. Linking the move to the worsening environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, Sanders said increased fuel efficiency will save consumers money, help the environment and reduce reliance on oil from risky offshore drilling. “The future of our energy system has got to be energy efficiency, making sure we have the cars and trucks that get good mileage,” Sanders said. “We have the technology now to do that. In my view, that is the future of energy in America.” In addition to stronger fuel standards, Sanders has called for a moratorium on offshore drilling. Enforcing new fuel standards already set to take effect would cut the cost of gasoline by $1 a gallon by 2030. Opening the entire Atlantic and Pacific coasts to oil drilling would shave only 3-cents a gallon off the price of gas by 2030.