In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Investigation Of Financial Crisis Idea Gaining Steam

The amendment was sponsored by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND). It provides that the Speaker and the Senate Majority Leader get to pick two commission members a piece. Beyond that, the Senate and House Minority Leaders, along with the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate Banking Committee and the House Financial Services Committee, each get to pick one member, for a total of 10, six appointed by Democrats. Just like an internal committee, the commission will have subpoena power.

(For what it's worth, though Pelosi's preference is for an internal investigation, her influential Financial Service Committee chairman, Barney Frank, supports something along the line of the Isakson-Conrad plan. So does Senate Banking Committee chair Chris Dodd)

Isakson's spokeswoman says that, in the senator's eyes, the commission should exist outside of Congress in order to avoid the conflict of interest inherent when members investigate their own actions. For instance, he, along with many of his still-serving colleagues, voted for Clinton-era legislation that eliminated the firewall between commercial and investment banks. He now seemingly regrets his vote, but thinks the issue should be investigated anyhow, and worries members would approach that process with blinkers on.

A number of critics believe that any politically devised plan to investigate the crisis will result in a sort of sham trial--whether because members are investigating themselves, or appointing people who will come to the "right" conclusions. But the House will be taking up their version of FERA next week, and, unless the commission gets stripped out of the bill in conference (and the Dorgan-McCain and Dingell measures meet similar fates) an investigation of some sort will happen. And when it does, these criticisms and members of Congress alike will be put to the test.

About The Author


Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at