Don't expect this Congress to deal with interstate branching, the burden of regulation, or any of the other concerns that bankers consider big issues.
But as the House and Senate stagger to adjournment, it remains possible that lawmakers will act on a number of small measures.
Some of the issues are "little fixes" of problems created in the last two major banking bills, said Karen Shaw, president of the Institute for Strategy Development. One likely to pass: A delay in the March 19 effective date of tough new loan-to-value requirements.
Also in the queue are uniform rules for credit reporting bureaus, which could come up on the House floor as early as next week. Lenders and credit bureaus have given grudging support to the bill approved by the House Banking Committee, but are worried about whether they can retain an amendment that bars states from passing tougher versions of the law.
New Rules for Enterprises
Most significant for the industry is a proposed overhaul of the regulation of government-sponsored enterprises, including the Federal Home Loan Bank System.
The Senate turned the bill into a full-blown banking package, ranging from money laundering to lender liability for environmental damage. It also addresses provisions in last year's bank law dealing with savings-account disclosures and executive compensation.
However, the bill on government-sponsored enterprises has stalled on a parliamentary technicality, and most of the banking provisions may have to be dropped to get it moving again.
Other possibilities include bankruptcy law reform, new funding for the Resolution Trust Corp., and a delay in the effective date of a requirement in the 1989 thrift-bailout law that requires savings institutions to phase out their investment in real estate subsidiaries.
A mini tax bill that now seems all but certain to pass includes a number of provisions important to banks and thrifts, including an amendment that would make it easier to convert trust department investment pools into mutual funds.
The bill under consideration in the House also tackles the Guarini amendment, named for Rep. Frank Guarini, D-N.J. He wants to strip away the favorable tax treatment accorded buyers of thrifts in the final days of 1988.
His bill would also restore favorable tax treatment for some "passive" real estate losses, a step that could help revitalize real estate markets.
One factor coloring the legislative outlook for the remainder of the year is the clock. Given the month-long August break and the frantic desire of many lawmakers to hit the campaign trail early, there could be as few as 20 working days remaining.
Another consideration, of course, is the November election. Both parties are eager to sharpen their images, and bank lobbyists are particularly worried that the Democrats will try to score points at their industry's expense.
A Prime Example
The credit reporting bill, which would give consumers more tools to challenge and correct errors in their credit reports, is a prime example.
"Democrats view it as potentially a good issue," said Barbara Munson, the Capitol Hill lobbyist for the Consumer Bankers Association. "They think they can get some political capital out of it, particularly if they go to the floor with an amendment to strike the federal preemption" of tougher state laws.
But in the frantic rush to adjournment, anything is possible and some bank lobbyists are hopeful they can use the clock to their advantage.
"You get into a game of what can be attached to what," said Stephen Verdier, lobbyist for the Independent Bankers Association of America. Some bills, such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act, he said, "may not have enough oomph to go through on their own," but could be carried on the coattails of something else.
"We've spent two years getting ready for this endgame," said Edward L. Yingling, the American Bankers Association's executive director of government relations. Bankruptcy reform has a better than even chance, he said, and lender liability, though a longer shot, is a possibility.
The key, Mr. Yingling said, is that the Senate has approved a lender liability bill twice. In the House, it is possible the industry could win some relief in the Resource Conservation Recovery Act, which is up for renewal, he said.
"Hopefully, in conference, we can get a bill then that will cover everything," he said.
Jim Butera, a lobbyist for a number of financial institutions, said lawmakers could "put together some little banking bill" providing relief from compensation guidelines and other requirements in last year's bank law.
"They still have to take another run at RTC funding," he said. "I don't know if they can succeed, but if they can, it could be a vehicle for a lot of other things."