WASHINGTON - Congressional efforts to overhaul the Bankruptcy Code appear to have been knocked off track by a 15-hour filibuster from Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato, R-N.Y.
"If it wasn't for D'Amato's filibuster, it would be done," said Edward L. Yingling, the American Bankers Association's chief lobbyist and a vocal supporter of the bankruptcy bill.
The House and Senate negotiators had agreed on a final version of the bill. The plan was to have the Senate take the measure up first, amend it to include the latest agreement, and send it back to the House for final action.
That timing was knocked for a loop Tuesday afternoon, however, as House members left town once it became clear that Sen. D'Amato's filibuster of an energy bill would preempt Senate votes.
|Unanimous Consent' Needed
The House may be in session today and Friday, but only a few lawmakers are likely to be on hand. As a result, bills will be considered by "unanimous consent," rather than a majority vote, and any lawmaker could block the measure.
"Now it's up in the air," said Mr. Yingling. Industry lobbyists, he said, are trying to "cover all the bases" on the bankruptcy bill in the House.
So far, there does not appear to be any opposition to the bill in the House. But any one of the chamber's 435 members with an objection to the measure - including supporters who want to hold the bill over as a vehicle for broader legislation next year - could block it.
(For details on how the bankruptcy bill would help banks, see the story at right.)
More likely to pass is a housing authorization bill, which includes a regulatory relief package for the banking industry and a money-laundering amendment. There is no apparent opposition to that measure in the Senate, and it has already passed the House.
In addition, a separate House-passed bill that permits regulators to waive some bank regulations in disaster areas, is still pending in the Senate and is expected to pass.
RTC Funding in Doubt
Funding for the Resolution Trust Corp., which has essentially been broke since April 1, is also in doubt. Nobody on Capitol Hill is even talking about an RTC bill, and the presumption is that Congress will leave town without approving money for the agency.
Similarly, a tax bill that includes a number of amendments sought by the banking industry appears to have run headlong into election-year politics.
The tax measure had been expected to pass easily, and the widespread assumption was that President Bush would sign it since it included many of his proposals. However, it includes a number of provisions that could be construed as tax increases, and the White House has indicated that the President now intends to veto it.
"The presumption is that the tax bill is dead," said Mr. Yingling of the ABA. "It's disappointing, because it had so many provisions that are good for banks."
Tax Break for Customers
The bill would permit banks to depreciate intangible assets, including core deposits acquired in mergers and RTC deals, and would provide favorable tax treatment for bank customers when trust department accounts are converted to mutual funds.
The Housing bill amendments would give banks another three months to comply with the 1991 truth-in-savings law and give thrifts more time to phase out their investment in real estate development units.
A 1991 law requiring guidelines on executive compensation would be amended so it applies only in connection with weak institutions or enforcement actions.