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Senators Propose Commission To Probe Market Crisis

Two senators are proposing a Sept. 11-style commission with subpoena powers and a $3 million budget to investigate what caused the banking and financial crisis.

Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said Thursday the bipartisan panel would conduct a comprehensive "forensic audit" to find out what went wrong and recommend ways to keep it from happening again.

"I've never personally seen anything like the economic times we're in now," said Isakson, who built a fortune in Atlanta-area real estate before coming to Congress. "We must learn exactly what happened and why. We must hold people accountable. If institutions or individuals broke the law, they must face the consequences."

Under legislation they introduced Thursday, the commission would have seven members appointed by the president, congressional leaders of both parties and the Federal Reserve chairman. It is modeled after a panel that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Isakson and Conrad noted that critics have spread blame around to various sectors: greedy lenders accused of lowering standards to make a profit; investment banks and hedge funds that traded high-risk financial instruments at will; and government-backed agencies such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that allegedly went too far in promoting home ownership.

They said the commission would have authority to look at all the players, including government regulators.

"All of it begs the question of what went wrong," said Conrad. "We have got to get to the root of all of it."

Governments around the world are struggling to contain the most severe credit crisis in decades, with banks reeling from bad mortgages, falling home prices and potentially growing defaults on credit cards and other loans as the economy worsens.

The U.S. is spending up to $700 billion to help financial institutions in a bailout program that has proven extremely unpopular with the public.

This program aired on January 22, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

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