Friday on the financial reform bill, the process of incorporating oral agreements into precise legislative language began.
More than a dozen staff members representing lawmakers, the Clinton administration, and the regulators are holed up in Room 136 of the Cannon House Office Building, parsing the 350-page bill with a drafting specialist.
Two of House Banking Committee Chairman Jim Leach's chief lieutenants on financial reform, Gary L. Parker and Laurie Schaffer, are the principal representatives of the House Republicans. They know the ins and outs of the legislation as well as or better than anyone else on Capitol Hill.
Their role became even more prominent when House Banking staff director Tony Cole was hospitalized with heart trouble. (Mr. Cole underwent an angioplasty procedure Oct. 13 and is "recovering well at home," a House Banking spokesman said.)
Mr. Parker, general counsel of House Banking, is from Rep. Leach's home state of Iowa and has worked for the moderate lawmaker since 1985, becoming deputy general counsel when Rep. Leach ascended to the committee chairmanship in 1995. He was promoted to his current post two years later and has devoted most of his time to financial reform.
Ms. Schaffer, deputy staff director, has been assigned to the bill since joining the committee in 1995, after jobs at the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Reserve Board, and the Treasury Department.
Though Republicans are in charge, Democrats are trying to influence the process as much as they can.
Democratic staffers from House Banking, in particular, are confronted with a tough balancing act. Their boss, Rep. John J. LaFalce of New York, has worked closely with Rep. Leach all year and has given his stamp of approval to the final package. However, some Democrats are threatening to vote against it and complaining that their leaders and the White House gave in too easily on community reinvestment requirements and consumer privacy protections.
That delicate task is in the hands of Dean M. Sagar and Tricia M. Haisten. Mr. Sagar has worked for Rep. LaFalce for 10 years and specializes in the Community Reinvestment Act, privacy, and consumer issues. Ms. Haisten joined the committee's minority staff as a lawyer last year after lobbying for banking clients of the Williams & Jensen law firm here.
Two key committee staff members represent the interests of Senate Banking's Republicans: staff director Wayne Abernathy and chief counsel Linda Lord. The two have played a pivotal role in drafting the legislation -- often scripting the preliminary versions that, after incorporating comments from Democrats, are honed into final language by professional drafters.
Mr. Abernathy began his Capitol Hill career in 1978 as an intern to Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, a former Senate Banking chairman, and he has worked for the committee almost continuously since. Before joining Senate Banking in January, Ms. Lord spent 12 years in private practice with three law firms here and started her own financial services consulting firm. She has also worked on Capitol Hill, including six years at House Banking.
Three Treasury officials have represented the White House in Room 136 since Friday: Michael Barr, deputy assistant secretary for community development; Gregory A. Baer, deputy assistant secretary for financial institutions; and Marne Levine, deputy assistant secretary for legislative affairs. The three are emissaries of Treasury Under Secretary Gary Gensler, who was present throughout the late-night heroics last week. So far, there reportedly have been relatively few disagreements. "There may be a couple places where memories differ, but that's to be expected when you have a session like we did Thursday night," one official said. It helps, too, that the White House and senior lawmakers hammered out exact language on several provisions.
Julie L. Williams, chief counsel at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, has also been a key player in the discussions, keeping a particularly close eye on provisions governing national bank powers.
J. Virgil Mattingly Jr., general counsel at the Federal Reserve Board, participated in the drafting sessions. A 25-year Fed veteran, Mr. Mattingly was labeled a hero Friday for his behind-the-scenes effort to get the White House and senior lawmakers together on CRA. Associate general counsel Scott G. Alvarez has also played a key role.
It is at this crucial, late stage in the legislative process that congressional legal experts such as James M. Wert earn their paychecks. As assistant counsel in the House Office of Legislative Counsel, he is the point man on drafting the bill, and he hosts the authors in his conference room to add the finishing touches.
"We are getting close to the finish line," said Mr. Wert, a banking law expert who has handled financial reform legislation for his office since 1985. "There are some issues outstanding, but we are walking through things and cleaning up the underbrush. ... I'm still not used to it, the fact that (the bill) has gone this far."
As of midday Tuesday, drafters were still hashing out the bill's consumer privacy protection language, sources said. Negotiations continued over the wording of a mandatory disclosure requirement for bank grants or loans to community groups, sources said, and some last-minute consideration was being given to letting federally insured depository institutions -- and not just securities firms or insurance firms -- own uninsured, wholesale banks.
The authors hoped to finish by late Tuesday so that the legislation could be circulated among conferees for their signatures. The House and Senate are expected to vote on the bill this week or next.