With Florida ballots still being counted and the federal government closed Friday for Veterans Day, banking industry observers found time to speculate late last week about Sen.-elect Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Rumors have circulated that the First Lady might end up on the Senate Banking Committee, which is led by Sen. Phil Gramm, a vocal critic of the New York Democrat and her husband, President Clinton.

Capitol Hill sources reported that Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is gunning for a spot on the powerful Finance Committee. He currently serves on the Banking and Judiciary panels, and under Senate rules he would have to surrender one of these posts to join the Finance Committee.

The conventional wisdom is that New York, as a major financial center, must have representation on Senate Banking.

What remains to be seen is if the Democratic leadership would let Sen. Schumer make the switch, or whether “Hillary” (who, like Madonna or Cher, marketed herself without a last name during the campaign) wants to join the Banking Committee. His office declined to comment, and hers did not return phone calls.

If all this seems as confusing as a Palm Beach County ballot, more surprising is a prediction that Sen. Gramm would welcome Ms. Clinton on his committee.

At least one Washington insider said that Sen. Gramm and fellow Republicans such as Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama would relish the chance to spar with Ms. Clinton on a regular basis.

“Even though Ms. Clinton would have a national audience, I think Phil thinks he could handle her pretty well,” said Marty Farmer, a longtime banking industry lobbyist. “I think Sen. Shelby is salivating to have her there. On issues like the Community Reinvestment Act, they would jump all over her.”

Mr. Farmer said that the Republican lawmakers might actually see it as beneficial if Sen. Schumer, a pro on financial issues, departs. “Sen. Schumer is one smart cookie,” he said. “He knows the issues cold.”

Most observers interviewed agreed that if Sen. Schumer leaves the Banking Committee, Ms. Clinton would be the logical choice to fill the opening.

“I would think any Senator from New York would want to be on the Banking Committee,” said H. Rodgin Cohen, a managing partner with the New York law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell and a Democratic insider. “Banking is a huge part of New York commerce, and they would want to be on a committee that affects their constituents.”

Others said visions of Sen. Gramm and Ms. Clinton debating toe-to-toe are overblown.

“They will get along very well because of senatorial courtesy,” said Bert Ely, a financial services industry consultant in Alexandria, Va. “Senate debate is more a function of style than ideology. I think Ms. Clinton would function effectively, and play the game well.”

Indeed, Sen. Gramm’s office was remarkably restrained about the possibility of Ms. Clinton joining the committee. “It’s up to the Democratic conference” to appoint her, “and Sen. Schumer whether he wants to stay on,” a Senate Banking spokeswoman said. “There’s really not anything to say.”

Other Republican heavyweights, though, are already offering Ms. Clinton a chilly reception.

“She’ll be one of 100 co-equals,” Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said Wednesday, according to published reports. “She’ll have to get used to that. Getting a lot of attention and getting something done in the Senate don’t always go hand-in-hand. If she’s smart, she’ll keep a pretty low profile for a while.”


Maybe Comptroller of the Currency John D. Hawke Jr. has been watching too much “Saturday Night Live.”A couple of days after the comedy show’s prime time political special — which featured a now-famous skit mocking Vice President Gore endlessly repeating his pet analogy for Social Security reform during the presidential debates — Mr. Hawke offered his own one-liner.

During a serious discussion among Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. board members about the vulnerability of the Bank Insurance Fund, Mr. Hawke brought the house down by chiming in, “Maybe we should put the fund in a lockbox.”


Not only was Byron R. Wien, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co.’s top investment strategist, at the epicenter of the Florida re-count while attending the Securities Industry Association annual meeting last week in Palm Beach County, but the election confusion played right into his hands.“I didn’t want either of the two guys to get in, because I did not think the economic program of either party was something that was constructive to the country,” he told securities executives. “I was hoping for some form of government where very little gets done — similar to what we’ve had in the last four years — because the great glory of America right now is this budget surplus that can be used to reduce the debt and shore up the Social Security and Medicare trust funds.

“It never occurred to me that what would happen” would be a presidential election with an uncertain outcome and “a situation, particularly in the Senate but also in the House, such that not a lot is going to get done in Congress,” he said. “If we have the status quo, and we allow the surplus to build up, that is positive for the economy.”

The bottom line for Mr. Wien? “I’m not as negative on the current situation as some observers.”


Banks, thrifts, and credit unions have a new administrative law judge, Ann Z. Cook, who succeeded Judge Walter J. Alprin Nov. 6 at the Office of Financial Institution Adjudication.Judges in this office handle administrative proceedings for the Federal Reserve Board, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the Office of Thrift Supervision, and the National Credit Union Administration.

Judge Alprin retired Sept. 22, after 37 years in the federal government, 27 of them years as an administrative law judge. Judge Cook has been an administrative law judge since 1994, most recently with the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Lisa Daigle and Michele Heller contributed to this article.

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