The bipartisan Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, having already delayed its final report, is embroiled in disagreement over how to apportion blame for the 2008 financial crash, two commission members said Wednesday. As a result, the finished report is likely to come with dissenting opinions.
The 10-member bipartisan commission, set up by Congress in July 2009, is required by law to deliver its final report by December 15. But members voted last week to delay publication until late January.
The four members appointed by Republicans—Vice Chair and former Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Calif. (former chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee); Keith Hennessey, a former economic advisor to President George W. Bush; Douglas Holtz-Eakin, an economic adviser to Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign; and Peter Wallison, a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute—dissented from that decision, saying the commission should observe the law.
At the time, the delay was described as a result of procedural problems, including staff turnover and a decision by Chairman Phil Angelides to prepare a book-length version of the report to be published by Public Affairs. But interviews with commission members indicate that another key reason for the delay is that Republican members disagree with where the commission’s conclusions are heading.
“Something went very, very wrong,” Wallison told National Journal in an interview on Wednesday. Wallison, who believes government housing policy was the biggest factor in the crisis, said he was reviewing preliminary versions of the report. He declined to comment on specific conclusions, but said that based on what he's read so far, “I don’t think they’re correct.”
Wallison said the report appears to embrace “a very conventional analysis” of the crisis, laying most of the blame on Wall Street and deregulation. He indicated he would likely dissent from the report. Holtz-Eakin, also reached by phone, said he would not “discuss the internal draft,” but left open what his final vote would be. “That depends on the final report,” he said.
A Democratic member of the commission said the delay was largely caused by a lack of enthusiasm by the GOP members, who sometimes don't show up for meetings. “The Republicans don’t seem interested in participating in the process of preparing the report,” said the member, who would discuss the internal deliberations only on condition of anonymity. “I suspect they are doing their own reports. I think there might be at least two, one by Wallison, and perhaps the other Republicans will do another together.” The Democratic member added, however, that a majority of six members is likely to vote for the final report.
FCIC Spokesman Tucker Warren told National Journal that he couldn’t comment on the internal discussions, adding that was “premature” to talk about the final vote. “Once the commission’s report is in more final form then we’ll have a better sense of how all 10 commissioners will vote,” he said.
Despite the specific language requiring a final report by December 15, Warren said Angelides had solicited approval from leading members of Congress for an extension. The law also gives the panel some wiggle-room, he added. “The law also stipulated the commission could go 60 days beyond December 15 to continue its activities,” Warren said. The commission hopes to complete its work by February 11.
The Commission’s mandate charged it with conducting a comprehensive examination of 22 specific areas of inquiry, including financial fraud and abuse, regulatory failures, problems with global capital imbalances, and monetary and tax policies. But the commission, manned largely by partisans of the left and right, has been plagued by dissent from the beginning.