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After making some major changes late in the day today, Sen. Bernie Sanders' [I, VT] amendment to audit the Federal Reserve has the support of Banking Committee Chairman Sen. Chris Dodd [D, CT] and the White House, both of whom were concerned that opening the Fed up to audits would threaten their independence.

The revised amendment (.pdf) would not amend U.S. law so as to indefinitely open up the Fed to full audits like the original amendment would have. Instead it is focused on making information about the Fed's actions in response to the financial crisis public. It would reveal information about which banks received special deals from the Fed, how much money they got, and when we can expect to get it back. But after that, the Fed would go back to operating under the same level of secrecy they enjoy currently.

Specifically, based on my reading of the legislative text, here's what's in the revised amendment.

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McCain's Maverickiness

May 6, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

A new, super-geeky (in a good way) academic paper from Princeton Politics Ph.D. student Ben Lauderdale measures the "maverickiness" of members of Congress. Here's what he found on the maverickiness of the "original maverick" himself, Sen. John McCain [R, AZ].

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Senate to Vote on Auditing the Fed Today

May 6, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

With most of the non-controversial financial reform amendments out of the way, the Senate today is moving on to one that will divide both parties and is strongly opposed by the White House. The amendment, from Sen. Bernard Sanders [I, VT], would open up the Federal Reserve's monetary policy decisions to a full Government Accountability Office audit for the first time ever.

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Financial Reform Amendment Voting Begins

May 5, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Remember last week when Senate Republicans filibustered beginning debate of the financial reform bill three times in three days over objections to a liquidation fund that they said would be used in the future for bailouts? Well, the fund was officially removed on Wednesday by a an overwhelming vote of 93-5. That makes everyone happy -- the Republicans who called it a bailout, the banks who didn't want to pay into it, and the Democrats who didn't really care much about it and would rather have Republican cooperation.

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Intern with OpenCongress this summer

May 5, 2010 - by David Moore

Students of all backgrounds are invited to intern with us this summer in downtown New York City or in Washington, D.C. Why come work with OC? We're a free and open-source project, so you're supporting the open Web. We're not-for-profit and non-partisan, so you won't be chasing clients or pageviews or just one side of the story, but rather building public knowledge about Congress. Our start- and end-dates are flexible, we're a public-spirited team of friendly people, and we provide great web development experience.

It's easy to apply -- click through for more info, and even if you're not a student, links you can use to help spread the word.

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As you no doubt have heard, federal agents last night arrested Faisal Shahzad, an American citizen suspected of planting the failed car-bomb in Time Square on Saturday. There isn't a lot of information out yet on how the arrest went down or whether Shahzad is connected to foreign terrorist groups, but Sen. John McCain [R, AZ] today is saying that if the agents read Shahzad his Miranda rights, informing him that he has a right to remain silent until he goes to court, they made a big mistake.

Thanks to a bill McCain introduced earlier this year, we know exactly how McCain thinks the arrest should have been handled. The bill is called the Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention and Prosecution Act and it empowers federal authorities to hand over terrorist suspects, called "unprivileged enemy belligerent" in the bill, to the military for interrogation and indefinite dentition without trial, even if they are an American citizen. 

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Renaming the Navy

May 4, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

A bill that will be voted on today in the House has more co-sponsors than any bill in Congress since 1973, which is as far back as electronic data on bill sponsorship is available. The bill is H.R. 24, and it would rename the Navy as the "Department as the Navy and the Marine Corps" because, according to the bill's chief sponsor, Rep. Walter Jones [R, NC-3], most people don't know that the Marine Corp is under the umbrella of the Navy Department, including members of Congress.

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Under the financial reform bill that the Senate is currently debating (the Restoring Financial Stability Act of 2010), payday lenders would be subject to new regulations promulgated by the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to ensure that their services are "fair, transparent, and competitive." Depending on how aggressive the Bureau ends up being, the rules could severely limit the terms under which payday lends could do business.

But while the underlying bill isn't good for the payday loan industry, an amendment being proposed to it from Sen. Kay Hagan [D, NC] could be more damaging. It would ban payday lenders from giving out new loans to customers who have already taken out six payday loans or have been under loan obligations for more than 90 days in the past year. 

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Make Government Data Pretty, Win Cash

May 3, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Attention, web designers and visual artists. Sunlight Labs' first ever Design for America contest is currently underway. They are offering $40,000 for examples in eight categories of government information made awesome through design and visualization. Jump on it now as the submission deadline is approaching quickly (though you still have some time).


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The first amendment the Senate will vote on tomorrow when they start voting on amendments to the financial reform bill will be one from Sen. Barbara Boxer [D, CA] that seeks to ensure that the government will liquidate failing financial firms rather than bailing them out with taxpayer money. If any amendment is going to get wide bipartisan support, it will be this one.

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The Week Ahead in Congress

May 3, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

It's amendment time this week for the Restoring American Financial Stability Act. Banking Committee Chairman and financial reform floor manager Sen. Chris Dodd [D, CT] has set as an end date of May 14 for the bill, meaning that the next two weeks will largely determine how effective Congress's efforts to address the regulatory lapses that lead to the crisis of 2008 and end "to big to fail" will be. Amendments to be voted on will include things like making the big banks smaller, opening the Federal Reserve up to a full audit, and restricting the authority of a new consumer financial protection bureau. We'll be covering it all closely on this blog. For now, let's take a look at what's going to be happening this week over on the other side of the Capitol.

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