today, but a last-minute conflict erupted Monday over a proposal on Community Reinvestment Act disclosure, with Senate Banking Committee Chairman Phil Gramm pitted against the Clinton administration.
Though most Capitol Hill and industry officials predicted a majority of House and Senate conferees would sign the legislation last night, Sen. Gramm reportedly told industry lobbyists at a midafternoon meeting in his office that the administration was still objecting to provisions that would require public disclosure of bank grants or loans made to community groups to head off merger protests.
Congressional staff members finished writing the financial services legislation Monday and immediately began circulating the final language among the 66 members of the House-Senate conference committee on the long-sought legislation, which would eliminate the remaining barriers among the banking, insurance, and securities industries.
At issue is a requirement that community groups include in their annual reports "a detailed, itemized list" of how they use bank payments for salaries, travel and entertainment budgets, or other expenses. Administration officials reportedly wanted that list watered down or removed and defined later by regulators. Treasury officials declined to comment except to say they are still reviewing the final bill.
Sen. Gramm needs 11 signatures from among the 20 Senate conferees to send the bill to the floor. But a united Democratic front combined with one Republican critic of the bill, such as Sen. Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, could produce a 10-10 deadlock. For that reason, industry sources said, Sen. Gramm pressed lobbyists to find at least one Democrat who would vote with the Republicans.
A Gramm spokeswoman declined to comment about the lawmaker's remarks at the meeting but said the administration had raised objections in recent days. She emphasized that the wording of the bill is "final" and that it included instructions that federal regulators make the disclosure requirements as easy as possible.
Sen. Gramm was upbeat in an official statement.
"The completion of the conference report sets the stage for passage of what will be the most important banking bill in 60 years -- a bill that will benefit every consumer and every worker in America," he said. "I hope we will get strong bipartisan support for the conference report and a strong bipartisan vote on the Senate floor."
The Texas Republican also crowed over some of his victories. "The report and the legislation are well written and represent a victory for everything I believe in in the American economy, from greater competition in banking, securities, and insurance to sunshine, accountability, and regulatory relief in the Community Reinvestment Act."
Lobbyists and Capitol Hill sources said many Democrats were delaying their signatures to make sure the White House did not cave in to complaints from liberals and consumer groups, but they predicted the administration and the minority party would eventually stick with the deal.
Meanwhile, the House plans to vote on the historic, 416-page compromise Wednesday, provided enough conferees sign it, a House Banking Committee spokesman said. Democrats were objecting on the House side, too, he said, but "we don't have the same problems Gramm does."
A copy of the legislation is available on the House Banking Committee's Web page at http://www.house.gov/banking/s900conf.htm.