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Political Notebook

Frank raps GOP, foreign banks for Fed criticism

THANKS GIVEN — As he did last year, Vice President Joe Biden yesterday welcomed sick and wounded members of the military and their families to his family’s residence in Washington, D.C., for Thanksgiving dinner. THANKS GIVEN — As he did last year, Vice President Joe Biden yesterday welcomed sick and wounded members of the military and their families to his family’s residence in Washington, D.C., for Thanksgiving dinner. (Getty Images)
November 23, 2010

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WASHINGTON — Representative Barney Frank yesterday denounced Republican lawmakers for joining foreign leaders in criticism of the US Federal Reserve’s plan to buy $600 billion in bonds in an effort to jump-start the economy.

Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, incoming House speaker John Boehner, Senator Jon Kyl, and Representative Eric Cantor sent a letter last week to Fed chief Ben Bernanke expressing concerns that the infusion of cash would cause inflation and possibly generate an asset bubble that could do more damage to the economy.

Frank, a Newton Democrat and chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, countered that the Fed’s plan would not spark inflation and would stimulate a sluggish economy.

“Debating American economic policy is one thing; joining in a broad attack by foreign central banks, who insist that America somehow must subordinate our own legitimate economic needs to their currency requirements, is quite another,’’ he said in a statement.

Republican economists sent a separate letter to Bernanke last week criticizing the Federal Reserve’s bond-buying plan. Foreign leaders from China, Germany, and Brazil have also signaled their displeasure.

“I was not surprised at the extreme hypocrisy of the Central Bank of China insisting that America — apparently alone among nations — has an obligation to subordinate its own legitimate economic needs to international currency movements, nor was I surprised that other central banks, including Germany’s, joined China,’’ Frank said in his statement.

“What did disappoint me was to see conservative economists, high-ranking officials of previous Republican administrations, and Republican congressional leaders share the attack by these foreign banks not simply on the substance of the Federal Reserve’s proposal, but on the very notion that America has a right to give a primary focus to our own economic need for growth at this time.’’ — DONOVAN SLACK

Brown bill would keep traders with Iran out of US
WASHINGTON — Senator Scott Brown wants the United States to bar entry to executives and controlling shareholders of companies that do business with Iran.

The Massachusetts Republican filed a bill, the No Entry for Supporters of the Iranian Regime Act of 2010, that would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to deny visas to foreigners who violate US sanctions on Iran, including the executives of foreign companies that invested more than $20 million in Iran’s oil or gas sectors.

Brown’s bill, which is before the Judiciary Committee after he quietly filed it September, would enable the secretary of state to send letters to chief executives warning them that their access to the United States could be cut off if they continue their activities in Iran.

Some sanctions experts say the bill could spark anger overseas, as the Helms-Burton Act of 1996 did. That law, which applied to companies operating in Cuba, prompted complaints from Mexican and Canadian officials. The European Union requested a World Trade Organization hearing about it.

“It’s Helms-Burton revisited,’’ said Robert Clifton Burns, a sanctions expert at Bryan Cave LLP. “Does it really accomplish anything to keep these executives out? What are they going to say: I’m not going to make a $30 billion investment in Iran so that I can go to Disney World?’’

A statement posted to Brown’s website lauded the bill as “another tool as we work to prevent the Iranian regime from crossing the nuclear threshold.’’ — FARAH STOCKMAN

Pentagon moving up release of ‘don’t ask’ report
WASHINGTON — Signaling the growing seriousness of the Obama administration’s commitment this year to ending the military’s ban on gays serving openly in the armed forces, the Defense Department said it will release a long-awaited report on the matter earlier than planned because senators are eager to vote on whether to repeal the policy.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has ordered the report to be released on Nov. 30, one day earlier than planned, “to support Congress’s wish to consider repeal before they adjourn,’’ Geoff Morrell, Pentagon spokesman, said Sunday.

The Senate is slated to vote again on a defense policy bill that includes language that would repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell’’ policy after the Thanksgiving recess. The measure did not advance in September.

Several senators asked Gates last week to release the report early so the Senate Armed Services Committee could hold hearings on it before the full Senate votes. Several moderate senators have said they will not decide how to vote until they read the report. — WASHINGTON POST