An obscure board of Washington insiders whose job it is to monitor the stability and financial health of the nation has been unusually quiet about President Obama’s debt-limit crisis.
This absence of any warning from the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) has prompted the Senate’s leading Republican on the Finance Committee to assert his own oversight authority and demand answers.
In a letter to the council Wednesday, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R.-Utah) said that a review shows the council’s minutes on July 13 and its annual report approved July 22 do not “identify possible failure to raise the statutory debt limit by Aug. 2 as an imminent risk to the financial stability of the United States worthy of a warning to the American people, and do not come close to recent statements by Treasury officials warning of ‘catastrophe.’ ”
Voting members of the council include the Treasury secretary and Federal Reserve chairman.
Congress does not have sufficient information about the Treasury Department’s actual cash flow or revenue to make informed judgments, Hatch said.
“Many Americans and members of Congress are, unfortunately, relying on estimates and projections from either large Wall Street financial institutions or nongovernmental organizations often labeled think tanks,” Hatch said.
“The lack of information is unsatisfactory,” Hatch said.
By close of business on Thursday, Hatch wants to know how much money the Treasury Department needs to avoid default, and what the contingency plan is if the debt ceiling is not raised by Aug. 2.
Hatch also wants to know whether the council agrees with Obama’s statements that failure to raise the debt limit represents an emerging threat to the financial stability of the United States.
Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner (R.-Ohio) continued to gather support for his proposal, which the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) now says would cut more spending than the increase of $1.2 trillion of the debt limit.
Boehner fought back a rebellion from within the Republican ranks, and swore at members during a closed-door meeting to “Get your [expletive deleted] in line.”
“I can’t do this job unless you’re behind me,” Boehner said.
The House is expected to vote on Boehner’s measure Thursday night after the markets close.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.), however, says Boehner’s plan will not pass the Senate, while Obama is threatening to veto the measure too.
“The speaker’s plan is on life support, and it’s time for him to pull the plug,” said Sen. Charles Schumer (D. N.Y.).
However, Reid’s own plan also ran into scoring problems with the CBO Wednesday, which said it falls $500 billion short of its projected cuts in spending.