In a last hurrah that has everyone snickering behind his back, Rep. Joseph Kennedy, D-Mass., plans to hold a hearing Nov. 29 into the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency's approval of Barnett Banks acquisition of the Florida branches of Glendale Federal Savings Bank.

Kennedy is holding the hearing despite the widespread view that his campaigns on behalf of consumers and fair lending were among the liberal concerns that were repudiated by the voters Nov. 8 through their election of a Republican-controlled Congress. In fact, one of the key reasons driving Republican restructuring of the House committee system is reducing the opportunities for a high profile that being a senior member of a subcommittee would provide Kennedy.

To reduce publicity opportunities for Kennedy, among other reasons, the Republicans are likely to fold his consumer affairs subcommittee into an overall empowerment subcommittee or committee. Given the jockeying among Republicans for positions in the new power structure, it is unclear who will head the new panel but housing issues are also likely to be a part of it.

The consumer panel has been a gathering point for consumer activists, and the GOP feels it would gain many points from bankers if it was combined with another subcommittee. Combining the consumer subcommittee with another banking panel could be considered closing the barn door after all the animals departed, but it has been a hotbed for legislation hated by the financial services industry.

Among the suspects who have agreed to testify before Kennedy's panel on one panel are FDIC Chairman Ricki Tigert, Federal Reserve Board Governor Lawrence Lindsey, Comptroller of the Currency Eugene A. Ludwig, and Norman D'Amours, chairman of the National Credit Union Administration. Another panel, as it is being structured, will be DeVal Patrick, deputy attorney general for civil rights, and Nicolas Retsinas, a deputy secretary at HUD.

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