House Democrats turned up the heat on the Federal Reserve Board Friday, arguing against another increase in interest rates.
Rep. Richard Gephardt, the House minority leader, and 58 other congressmen joined five senators in a letter to Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan.
"Raising interest rates in a preemptive strike against inflation risks damaging economic growth and prosperity, and is unwarranted," the letter stated.
Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., wants Mr. Greenspan to defend the recent hike in rates at a hearing before the House Banking Committee.
Calling the request "political second-guessing," Committee Chairman Jim Leach has refused. But if a majority of the panel agrees with Rep. Frank, the members could force Rep. Leach's hand.
As of Friday, 24 of the 26 committee Democrats had signed a request from Rep. Frank. If fellow Democrats Charles Schumer of New York and Esteban Torres of California join in, only three GOP members need to enlist to reach a majority.
Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez turns 81 this week, but the Texas Democrat hasn't lost his spunk. At a press conference Thursday, he lashed out at the Fed.
"It is a very powerful and entrenched interest that has in many ways vitiated any real government oversight," he said. "It has made tremendous decisions that the Constitution never intended to give to anyone but Congress."
Over at the Fed, a piece of modern art by Olga de Amaral was hung Wednesday outside the boardroom where those interest rate decisions are made.
"Seven Stelae," the gold-leaf and fabric work, was lent to the Fed by the Bellas Artes Gallery of Santa Fe, N.M.
"It's sort of like Stonehenge," Fed Vice Chairman Alice M. Rivlin said in attempting to describe the unusual piece.
As the governor in charge of managing the agency, Ms. Rivlin oversees the Fed's art collection. She much prefers the new artwork to the dark art deco rugs that it replaced on the wall. "Probably somebody loved them once," Ms. Rivlin said. "I said, 'Let's get something brighter.'"