The House Ways and Means Committee approved a measure late Tuesday that would protect thrifts from $3 billion of back taxes for bad-debt reserves taken before 1988.

The measure, introduced by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Archer, was folded into a major health care bill, approved by the committee on a 25-11 vote.

The bad-debt shield is an important part of efforts to rescue the Savings Association Insurance Fund and eventually merge the bank and thrift charters. The measure was attached to the health care legislation because it would generate $1.6 billion, offsetting other costs in the larger bill.

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