WASHINGTON -- Banking lobbyists expressed confidence that Congress would wrap up negotiations on two major banking bills this week, perhaps as early as today.
And for the first time in recent memory, it appears Congress will pass major banking legislation that doesn't contain significant setbacks for the industry.
"In the past, in every banking bill, they stuck us with something," said Edward L. Yingling, chief lobbyist for the American Bankers Association. "Here, there's not a single major negative."
The two bills are by no means home free. But House and Senate banking committee aides have narrowed the differences in the two bills to a handful.
The biggest stumbling blocks now are provisions in the Senate bills dealing with foreign banks.
The interstate bill contains a measure requiring foreign banks to branch from a U.S.-based office, while the community development bank bill includes a provision that permits regulators to retaliate against countries that discriminate against U.S. institutions.
The first measure, sponsored by Sen. Wendell Ford, D-Ky., is expected to be watered down considerably. One industry source close to the process said Sen. Ford likely would have to settle for a provision that simply mandates a study of the competitiveness of U.S. institutions.
The second - the Fair Trade in Financial Services bill, sponsored by the Senate Banking Committee chairman Donald W. Riegle, D-Mich. - was still up in the air Monday.
Provision Up in Air
One industry source said the House Ways and Means Committee now appears ready to go along with a modified version of the bill. If so, the measure's other principal source of opposition, the House Energy and Commerce Committee, would likely go along.
A second provision still up in the air involves home equity loans in Texas. The courts struck down a Texas law that had the effect of barring such loans, and House Banking Committee chairman Henry B. Gonzalez added a measure to the interstate bill reinstates the law.
He is expected to be opposed at the conference by Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Tex. Most observers said they expect the Gonzalez measure to carry.