WASHINGTON -- The savings and loan bailout continues to be a political football on Capitol Hill.
Trying to break an election year impasse, President Bush on Wednesday urged the House to promptly approve new funding for the cleanup.
But some members of the House Banking Committee - including Republican congressmen vowed to continue fighting the plan, and it was unclear when a vote might be held.
Both sides of the issue were argued at a fractious hearing held by the panel Wednesday.
Warning from Brady
Treasury Secretary Nicholas F. Brady warned that further delays would add much as $1.4 billion to the bailout's cost by the fall.
Because Congress did not appropriate an additional $43 billion last April to close 49 money-losing S&Ls, Mr. Brady said, losses at those institutions are mounting.
If more money isn't provided until September, the cleanup's price tag will rise to $1.4 billion, he said.
Mr. Bush, in a letter to House Speaker Thomas S. Foley, wrote that "the American taxpayer should not be burdened with the costs of this delay."
The Resolution Trust Corp., which is in charge of the cleanup, has already spent $84 billion. RTC Chief Executive Albert Casey maintains that an additional $43 billion would complete the job. The Senate has already voted to provide the funds.
Mr. Brady presented the committee with the semiannual report of the Thrift Depositor Protection Oversight Board, which oversees the RTC.
Mr. Brady, the board's chairman, was accompanied by seven other members, including Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan; William Taylor, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.; T. Timothy Ryan, director of the Office of Thrift Supervision, and the RTC's Mr. Casey.
Some lawmakers don't want to provide the cash because they say the RTC is closing S&Ls that, given some time, might recover.
Others accuse the RTC of being a boondoggle. They don't want to vote for RTC funding during an election year.
At the hearing, several ranking committee members appealed to their colleagues to free up the appropriation.
"This is an intolerable situation," said Rep. Chalmers Wylie, R-Ohio. "There are some members who don't want their thumbprint on RTC funding."
"We must have more money for the RTC," added Rep. Frank Annunzio, D-Ill. "A vote against RTC," funding is a vote to break the promise to the depositors."
Committee Chairman Henry Gonzalez, D-Tex., said he, too, backs the bill, and added that the problem must be addressed quickly so the committee can turn its attention to other pressing matters, namely, the solvency of the Bank Insurance Fund.
On the other side of the argument, Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy 2d, D-Mass., scolded the agency for being lax and running out of control.
To hammer home his point he referred to the RTC's Denver office losing track of $7 billion in assets seized from failed S&Ls earlier this year.
"It seems like we have a rogue agency that is running rampant throughout the country," he said.
Rep. Toby Roth, R-Wis., said he couldn't vote for the bill, because it would be unfair to his state, which has had few S&L problems. He resents all the money being spent in the South.