WASHINGTON - Banks and thrifts should not bother urging Congress to repeal the Community Reinvestment Act, a key senator told a group of executives this week.

"You go after CRA, you're not gonna make any progress," said Senate Banking Committee Chairman Alfonse M. D'Amato, R-N.Y. His remarks came Wednesday night in a private gathering of bank and thrift executives and investors sponsored in Washington by Salomon Brothers Inc.

"Let's go after the things that are doable," Sen. D'Amato said.

Sen. D'Amato made clear he is not a fan of CRA, which requires banks and thrifts to lend in all areas of their communities. But if banks stage a fight to repeal CRA, they would likely lose or at least risk sacrificing other measures they want Congress to pass, he said.

"CRA is not something I would tackle," Sen D'Amato said, "because then you won't get any regulatory relief."

Sen. D'Amato said he has asked his colleagues to focus on repealing the five or six "most egregious" laws that hurt banks. Sen. Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., will soon introduce a bill to give banks such regulatory relief, Sen. D'Amato said.

The Banking Committee chairman also predicted that Congress this year would tear down the firewall between commercial banking and investment banking. "That will be our major legislative thrust this year," he said.

The chairman called on the thrift industry to suggest "doable" solutions to the looming disparity between thrift and bank deposit insurance premiums.

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