In 1989, when Congress was writing the thrift bailout law, it seemed like a good idea to exempt commercial bank members of the Federal Home Loan Bank System from any responsibility for paying for the rescue operation. Today, though, the Clinton administration and some key legislators are coming to a very different conclusion. If they have their way, some district Home Loan banks that have encouraged commercial banks to join the system could soon be paying a larger share of the bailout's cost.

Like all good thrift stories, this one is heavily influenced by geography. It is, in part, a story of California and Texas thrifts against savings institutions from New York, New England, and elsewhere.

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