Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) is hoping to fill the political shoes of retired Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) — especially when it comes to being a constant thorn in the side of the Federal Reserve.
In one of his first actions of the 113th Congress, Broun introduced what has become a legislative mainstay in Congress — a bill to authorize a top-to-bottom audit of the nation’s central bank.
For years, the megaphone for Fed-bashing legislation had been carried by Paul, who built his dark horse presidential candidacies in large part on his harsh critique of the nation’s monetary policy.
But with Paul’s recent retirement, Broun is aiming to pick up where the former Texas lawmaker left off.
“I applaud Congressman Paul’s efforts. He was fighting for liberty,” Broun told The Hill Friday.
“I’m just going to stand on his shoulders and go forward in that same fight.”
In a release touting the bill, Broun’s office specifically notes that his legislation is identical to the version Paul championed in the 112th Congress.
“My plan is to pick up right where Congressman Paul left off,” he said upon unveiling the bill, which is being circulated for cosponsors.
Broun, who has served in the House since 2007, is one of the most conservative members of Congress. He considers himself a strict adherent to the Constitution and was a member of the Tea Party Caucus in the 112th Congress.
Along with the bills targeting the Fed, Broun has also already introduced legislation that would recognize human life as beginning at fertilization, and revoke the United States's membership in the United Nations.
While in line with Paul on many political issues, Broun declined to endorse a candidate during the 2012 Republican primary.
Broun stirred controversy in last year's election campaign by denouncing evolution and the Big Bang theory as "lies straight from the pit of hell." In 2010, he said he did not know if President Obama was an American citizen and a Christian, and has accused him of being a socialist.
Broun's 'audit-the-Fed' measure comes as Congress prepares for its first session without Paul since 1997.
The outspoken libertarian has said he plans to spend part of his retirement touring college campuses to continue to deliver his message of a small government strictly adherent to the Constitution.
Broun has already introduced a package of bills straight out of Paul’s playbook. They include a measure to have the United States return to the gold standard and others that would outright abolish the Fed.
After Paul announced in July 2011 he would not be seeking reelection, Broun said he told the lawmaker that he planned carry his ideological torch on monetary policy.
“I told him long ago, as soon as I knew he was not going to be here, [that] I’d like to be the sponsor of some of the legislation that he’s been sponsoring all along,” he said.
Broun has some company in his effort to continue Paul’s mission.
Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas), who was recently reelected to Congress after a 16-year absence, has also introduced legislation auditing the Fed.
Paul’s son, Rand, is entering his third year as a U.S. senator for Kentucky.
After years of introducing the ‘audit-the-Fed’ measure and hammering the Fed at every opportunity, Paul finally saw his bill cross a finish line of sorts in July.
Long on the losing end of lopsided votes, the bill garnered bipartisan support on its way to House passage, 327-98.
The bill had 270 cosponsors before it even came up for a vote. Nearly as many Democrats supported the legislation as opposed it.
However, the measure hit a wall in the Senate when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) refused to bring it up.
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, usually restrained in his comments, has been particularly critical of attempts to fully audit the Fed.
He has pointed out that the Fed is already subjected to review by government watchdogs like the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
If efforts to completely audit the Fed were to succeed, that would mean the Fed’s monetary policy decisions could be immediately dissected. Such action would erase the Fed’s highly-valued political independence, Bernanke argues.
"The nightmare scenario that I have is one in which some future Fed chairman would decide to, say, raise the federal funds rate by 25 basis points, and somebody in this room would say, 'I don’t like this decision and I want the GAO to go in ... and give us an independent opinion of whether or not that would be the right decision," he told the House Financial Services Committee in July.
He warned that subjecting the Fed to potential political second-guessing would have a “chilling effect” on its ability to steer the economy. He maintained that selling such a bill as “auditing the Fed” is misleading.
"I think the term 'audit the Fed' is deceptive. The public thinks auditing means checking the books ... making sure you're not doing special deals," he said. "All of those things are completely open."
Paul Broun for Congress