WASHINGTON - Bankers lost at least four key congressional allies Tuesday night, though Republicans appear to have retained control of the House and Senate.
GOP Rep. Bill McCollum, a 20-year House Banking Committee veteran who has been a consistent advocate for the industry, lost his Senate bid in Florida to the state's Democratic insurance commissioner, Bill Nelson, a consumer privacy hawk and former congressman who served on House Banking from 1985 to 1990.
In New York, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton knocked out House Banking's housing subcommittee chairman Rick Lazio.
Minnesota voters ousted Sen. Rod Grams, a friend of the industry who served on the Senate Banking Committee for six years, in favor of Democrat Mark Dayton, who is expected to champion consumer issues.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman William Roth, who has conceived important banking products including the popular "Roth Individual Retirement Account" in his 30 years in the Senate, lost his Delaware seat to the state's Democratic Gov. Tom Carper. However, Gov. Carper, who served in Congress from 1983 to 1992 as a member of House Banking, is also considered a friend of the industry.
Sen. Spencer Abraham, a key Senate Commerce Committee member, may have lost his seat to Democratic challenger Rep. Debbie Stabenow in Michigan. The race was too close to call Wednesday morning.
In addition to Sen. Grams' defeat, the Senate Banking lineup next year will no longer include Sen. Connie Mack, R-Fla., and Sen. Richard H. Bryan, D-Nev., who both are retiring. Mr. Nelson captured the seat Sen. Mack is vacating, while former Republican Rep. John Ensign won in Nevada.
Senate Banking's top Democrat, Sen. Paul Sarbanes, easily kept his Maryland seat. Republican Senate Banking member Rick Santorum held on to the Pennsylvania seat he has occupied since 1994. Also coming back is the newest Senate Banking member, Sen. Zell Miller, a Georgia Democrat.
While Senate Banking assignments and ratios remain to be determined, Sen. Phil Gramm will be back as chairman.
In the House, Republicans retained their majority by a yet-to-be-determined margin, and the top Banking committee incumbents handedly held on to their seats. Rep. John LaFalce of New York will be coming back as the panel's top Democrat, and Rep. Marge Roukema, R-N.J., and Rep. Richard Baker, R-La., are expected to duke it out to head the committee.
House Banking Chairman Jim Leach, R-Iowa, was reelected but is required by Republican party term limits to relinquish chairmanship.
"Now the main event is how the committee chairmen are chosen by Republican leaders," Joe Belew, president of the Consumer Bankers Association, said early today.
Pundits are already betting on Rep. Roukema, a 20-year veteran of the committee and chairwoman of the financial institutions subcommittee who is next in line for the chairmanship on the basis of seniority. Challenging her is Rep. Baker, chairman of the capital markets subcommittee.