WASHINGTON – The Senate voted 96-0 Tuesday to authorize a congressional audit of the Federal Reserve Board’s emergency aid program and full disclosure of who got the money, a plan that could reveal more details about government help for embattled investment firm Goldman Sachs.

“We are on the verge of lifting the veil of secrecy on perhaps the most important government agency in the United States,” said independent Vermont Sen. Bernard Sanders, the proposal’s chief sponsor.

Under his plan, Congress’ Government Accountability Office would conduct “a top-to-bottom audit of all the Federal Reserve’s emergency activities” since the economic crisis began in December 2007. The Fed also would have to post on its website all recipients of money from the more than $2 trillion in emergency aid that’s been disbursed since then.

The GAO also would look into whether the financial deals involved conflicts of interest. It’s common for members of the board of directors of the powerful Federal Reserve Bank of New York, for example, also to be executives or directors at banks that got government bailout money.

On another issue, the Senate rejected, 56-43, a bid by Republicans to end government control of mortgage insurance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac within two years, and approved, 63-36, Democrats’ plan to study the government’s role in those agencies.

The Senate debate is in its second week, with Democratic leaders hoping for a final vote later this week. If the measure passes, it would be reconciled with a similar bill that the House of Representatives passed last year.


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