Congress Contemplates Fed Emergency-Liquidity Power, Discount-Window Use

Today’s HFSC Financial Institutions hearing on emergency liquidity featured much discussion of reform, but few indications of any action Congress will take to advance it apart from support for pending agency efforts to enhance discount-window readiness. However, GOP criticism of the Bank Term Funding Program combined with witness support for its end makes clear the Fed’s political challenge should it reverse course and retain the facility in light of NYCB’s challenges and the potential for broader regional-bank stress.  Republicans including Subcommittee Chairman Barr (R-KY) were skeptical of the Home Loan Banks’ role as lenders to banks in duress; Democrats countered with strong support for the System as a boon to community banks.  Rep. Barr also contemplates some form of legislation to prevent the Fed from crafting new emergency-liquidity programs without prior Congressional approval, with Rep. Luetkemeyer (R-MO) noting his longstanding plan to give the FDIC authority to invoke a transaction-account guarantee regardless of amount without the need for prior Congressional approval.