- Politico -
Is libertarian rock star and Texas Republican Ron Paul going mainstream?
He’s got everyone from South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint to Minnesota moderate Democrat Collin Peterson to California liberal Barbara Boxer on his side in his audit-the-Fed crusade. He’s drawing liberal support in his push to rein in the cost of the war in Afghanistan. Senate candidates like Democratic Rep. Paul Hodes of New Hampshire are finding Dr. No’s populist economic anger to be useful in the campaign, echoing Paul’s criticism of the Federal Reserve.
Even Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) is delivering backhanded compliments, taking credit for merely allowing a vote on Paul’s amendment to audit the central bank.
This convergence of odd bedfellows, and the economic angst that’s driving it all, is yet another signal that President Barack Obama is going to have more and more trouble keeping his traditional Democratic allies on his side as the economic debate continues. It seems that everyone is looking for something new to latch on to in the economic debate — even if those ideas belong to one of the more eccentric members of Congress.
“This brought people together [from] the whole political spectrum, from progressives and liberals and libertarians and conservatives. ... they all came together. That, to me, is what is really so important,” said Paul, who has been introducing his audit-the-Fed measure since the early ’80s.
After so many tries, this time Paul’s measure attracted 313 co-sponsors in the House, representing every possible point on the political spectrum. It also scored a strong vote in a key committee and has a companion in the Senate that’s supported by a bipartisan coalition of senators.
And Paul’s economic views, long dismissed by the political establishment, seem to be resonating more broadly than just the audit-the-Fed measure, both in the larger financial reform debate and the growing concern about the cost of continuing the war in Afghanistan.
To be sure, Paul’s bill to abolish the personal income tax or to end the United States’ membership in the United Nations still puts him well outside the mainstream.
But lawmakers — and, more important, the voters they represent — are starting to believe that the financial meltdown and the dramatic government rescue effort seems to have gotten Wall Street back on its feet quite nicely while leaving regular folks on the curb, analysts say.
“On financial regulation matters, most Americans sympathize with Ron Paul’s outrage,” said Cook Political Report House analyst Dave Wasserman.
Take Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), a firebrand liberal who infamously declared that the Republican health plan is for people to die instead of to use the health system. Despite being on opposite sides of the political universe from Paul on a wide range of issues, Grayson paired up with Paul to help push the amendment version of the Fed audit bill in the House Financial Services Committee.
The committee victory for the Paul-Grayson amendment came at the defeat of a weaker alternative offered by Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) and backed by Frank. In normal times, the Watt amendment was just the kind of chairman-backed compromise Democrats would usually dutifully embrace. Instead the committee, including more than a dozen Democrats, opted 43-26 for the more intrusive Paul-Grayson measure.
“So far, the Federal Reserve has refused to answer questions about special loans and deals for Wall Street banks. I support an audit of the Federal Reserve to provide answers for working families and to protect New Hampshire taxpayer dollars,” said Hodes, a Democrat who is running for Senate in New Hampshire and backed the Fed measure.