To solve a procedural problem stalling financial reform talks, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert has decided to add four Republican lawmakers to the conference committee.

The new House negotiators are Reps. Peter King of New York and Edward Royce of California from the Banking Committee and Reps. Heather A. Wilson of New Mexico and Vito Fossella of New York from the Commerce Committee. They are appointed only for the section that would repeal the Glass-Steagall law.

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Phil Gramm had objected that a majority of the House conferees were Democrats. With the additions, there will be 46 House conferees: 24 Republicans and 22 Democrats.

Separately, 11 financial services groups sent letters Wednesday to Rep. Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott urging them to enact financial reform by yearend.

"The Senate- and House-passed measures, pending in conference, create a new, rational, balanced structure that will permit our nation's financial services providers to remain world leaders," the groups wrote. "While the unprecedented consensus that has formed around financial services legislation is a major achievement, it cannot be taken for granted... Let's not lose this unique chance to enact legislation."

Signers include the American Bankers Association, the Securities Industry Association, and the Independent Insurance Agents of America. -- Dean Anason

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