Leaders clear way for bipartisan probe of financial crisis

After months of wrangling, the House is poised to approve legislation that would create an independent, bipartisan commission to evaluate the origins of the financial crisis.

The creation of the commission, which would be made up of 10 members and have subpoena power, is expected to pass on suspension during Wednesday's consideration of the mortgage fraud legislation. Last week, a companion bill cleared the Senate with language proposed by Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., to create such a commission.

The House language resulted from a streamlining of separate proposals by House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson of Connecticut and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., after the Senate passed its version with bipartisan support.

Larson's original proposal would have required that the commission report back to Congress within 90 days, and it would have prohibited only those with a "conflict of interest" from sitting on the panel -- not specifically sitting lawmakers.

Both lawmakers suggested the creation of an independent commission in the fall. At that time, according to a Democratic aide, the proposal "was not exactly the most popular idea in the room," with some lawmakers concerned that an independent group might encroach on the turf of the congressional committees charged with monitoring the nation's financial system.

In April, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., recommended that the panel be created in the model of the Pecora Commission, a subgroup of the Senate Banking Committee established in 1932 to evaluate the causes of the stock market crash of 1929.

But aides said increasing public outcry about the poorly understood financial meltdown nudged House and Senate leaders to favor a panel of independent evaluators instead.

Issa, a vociferous opponent of the congressionally-funded bailout of American banks, on Monday offered former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor as a model for the kind of commissioner he hopes to see on the panel.

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