Senate Banking Committee Chairman Phil Gramm said Tuesday that this may be the final year of semi-annual hearings on how the Federal Reserve conducts monetary policy.

Under the 1978 Humphrey-Hawkins law, the Federal Reserve Board's chairman must testify twice yearly before the House and Senate Banking Committees.

Authorization for the hearings ends this year, and renewing it is "not very high on my priority list," because they are no longer necessary, Sen. Gramm, a Texas Republican, said. "It had its day."

But the House Banking Committee's chairman, Rep. Jim Leach, defended the practice.

"It would be, from the House's perspective, unthinkable not to hold the Fed precisely and regularly accountable for its conduct of monetary policy," the Iowa Republican said. Even if the legislative mandate expires, Rep. Leach said he would expect the Fed chairman to continue reporting to the committee twice annually.

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