Yet another of President Obama's high-profile nominees is getting the full Tea Party treatment. Sen. Rand Paul, the irascible Tea Party senator from Kentucky, is now reportedly threatening to block confirmation on the president's desired Federal Reserve chair.
President Obama nominated Janet Yellen to chair the Federal Reserve earlier this month. If confirmed, she would be the first woman to ever hold the post.
Paul, who has become one of the most vocal Federal Reserve critics in the Senate, will reportedly put a hold on Yellen's nomination unless Senate leadership allows a vote on his Fed transparency bill. The Federal Reserve Transparency Act would require a full audit of the notoriously opaque Federal Reserve by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
"We must take a critical look at the Fed's monetary policy decisions, discount window operations, and a host of other things, with a real audit—and not just pay lip-service to the idea of an audit," said Paul in a 2011 statement on his website explaining his support for the bill. "At a time when we're seeing great volatility in small Euro-zone economies like Greece, Portugal, and Ireland, it is more crucial than ever that we have real transparency at our own central bank."
Both Yellen's nomination and Paul's bill command strong progressive support. Richard Trumka, who leads the powerful labor organization AFL-CIO, has both endorsed Yellen and cosigned a letter demanding that the Fed be audited. Other signatories to the letter include progressive economist Dean Baker, left-wing journalist Naomi Klein, and the president of the United Steelworkers Union.
In Congress, a Fed audit has the support of many members of the president's own party. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., co-sponsored a similar measure in the House, along with Rand Paul's father, Texas Rep. Ron Paul.
Rand Paul's motives for auditing the Fed differ from those of his strange bedfellows, however. Whereas many progressives want the Federal Reserve to be more aggressive in promoting full employment, Paul has signalled that he would prefer to eliminate fiat money and return to the gold standard.
This is not the first time that Paul has worked to delay the confirmation of an Obama appointee. In March, he held a 13-hour filibuster against the president's proposed CIA director, during which he railed against the White House's secretive targeted killing program.