Bank Lobbyists Expected to Push For Narrow Bill

WASHINGTON -- House Speaker Thomas S. Foley is scheduled to meet today with a delegation of banking industry lobbyists, most of whom are expected to urge a sharply narrower focus for the bank reform bill.

Concerned that key lawmakers are negotiating a compromise that would restrict bank securities and insurance powers, many of the lobbyists are calling for a bill that recapitalizes the Bank Insurance Fund and tackles only a limited number of other issues.

|Ditch the Broad Bill'

"As I read the industry, the preponderant view is to ditch the broad bill and go with a narrow bill," said John S. Rippey, senior vice president of the Association of Bank Holding Companies. Thomas L. Ashley, the group's president, will be in the meeting with Rep. Foley, D-Wash.

Still, some of the bankers will urge Rep. Foley to keep the process alive. NCNB Corp.'s Mark Legget, for example, is expected to urge the speaker to press for a comprehensive bill.

But opposition to the broad bill continues to build.

Joseph Belew, president of the Consumer Bankers Association, said the lobbying message his group is carrying to Capitol Hill is, "This is the end of the process."

No Compromise

Despite the industry's concerns, it appeared that a final compromise on the House bill had not been reached by late Wednesday afternoon.

Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez, D-Tex., the banking committee chairman, said his staff has completed the outlines of an agreement with the Energy and Commerce Committee. But as of early afternoon he had not seen the language.

Sources close to the talks said the compromise will probably roll back bank insurance powers and set tough firewalls, or restrictions, on the use of new securities powers. The administration's proposal to permit nonfinancial companies to own banks would be dropped.

A memorandum of understanding conceding that the banking panel has broad jurisdiction on issues involving bank securities and insurance powers might also be included.

Monday Deadline

Rep. Gonzalez scheduled a meeting with committee Democrats to brief them on the talks. The House Rules Committee, which sets the terms for floor debate, set a Monday deadline for lawmakers to submit amendments and scheduled a hearing on Tuesday.

Rules Chairman Joseph Moakley, D-Mass., welcomed news of the tentative agreement but said he was not sure "how well it will line up with [the views of] committee members."

A number of banking committee members, including some who strongly supported the administration's sweeping reform proposal, are expected to oppose the compromise.

Even so, Rep. Moakley said opposition to the agreement from banking committee members would probably not prevent the leadership from scheduling the compromise language for a floor vote.

Rep. Moakley conceded that the prospects for a narrow bill were still very much alive. He also noted the practical difficulties of holding a narrow bill together.

Entities expected to be represented in the meeting with Mr. Foley include the American Bankers Association, the Association of Bank Holding Companies, Citicorp, Barnett Banks Inc., NCNB Corp., Bankers Trust Co., Bank of America, and Financial Services Council.

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