Progressives who have been campaigning for an independent commission to expose the causes of today's financial crisis are about to score a major victory as early as Wednesday in the House.
That is when the House is expected to take up mortgage fraud legislation that is expected to include language that would create a panel similar to the famous "Pecora Commission" that uncovered the corporate criminal behavior and ethical lapses that led to the Great Depression.
We have not seen the actual House bill language. But based on what we've been told and based on reporting from Sam Stein at The Huffington Post, who were among the first to break this story, the commission that would be created by the bill would have key elements we have been calling for, including subpoena power. The commission language would be essentially the same as language passed by the Senate last week that would create a 10-member financial markets commission that would "examine all causes, domestic and global, of the current financial and economic crisis in the United States." That language was included in the Senate's version of the financial fraud bill (S 386).
A leading Democrat in the House on this issue, Rep. John B. Larson, D-Conn., began working more intensively in the past few days with the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the bill after Pelosi herself came out in favor of establishing the commission. Supporting the effort on the Republican side has been Rep. Darrell E. Issa, D-Calif., who, like Larson, had been pushing for a Pecora-style commission as early as last fall.
When this proposal came before the Senate, only four senators—Republicans Jim Bunning (Ky.), Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), Jon Kyl (Ariz.) and John McCain (Ariz.)—voted against the bill. It will be interesting to note who in the House decides to stand in the way of understanding how we got into this mess and who objects to addressing one of the chief causes of the crisis, the epidemic of mortgage fraud.