Prompted by last week's Supreme Court ruling that national banks can sell insurance nationwide, House Rules Committee Chairman Gerald Solomon wants to ban the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency permanently from authorizing new bank insurance powers.

"The Supreme Court's Barnett decision only reinforces the need for congressional action," the New York Republican wrote in a memo to House Speaker Newt Gingrich and other Republican leaders last week. "Congressional prerogatives in this area should not be displaced by the reckless activities of the Comptroller."

The high court March 26 struck down a Florida law that had barred Barnett Banks Inc. from selling insurance from towns with fewer than 5,000 residents. The ruling also invalidated similar laws in 20 other states.

Rep. Solomon, a former insurance salesman, agrees with the Independent Insurance Agents of America that banks ought to be blocked from the insurance business. Last summer, he succeeded in tacking insurance limits onto legislation that would repeal the Glass-Steagall Act.

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