Gonzalez Set To Ask Vote On Own Bill

WASHINGTON -- House Banking Committee chairman Henry B. Gonzalez plans to scrap the work of a subcommittee's task force on regulatory reform, and will instead ask his panel to vote on a measure creating a single, independent agency to oversee banks and thrifts.

In a letter to committee members, the Texas Democrat said he planned to respect the handiwork of the financial institutions subcommittee, which last month reported out a sweeping financial institutions reform package 36-0.

But Rep. Gonzalez said a bill he was drafting would present issues in a different order and would propose his own plan for regulatory restructuring, rather than the framework on which the special task force was completing work at the end of last week.

Mixed Feelings Voiced

One task force member said he could understand Rep. Gonzalez's desire to substitute his own regulatory plan, since the subcommittee did not formally act on it.

"But it is shocking that the chairman would ignore what we marked up in the financial institutions subcommittee," said Rep. Carroll Hubbard, D-Ky.

"I am personally fond of the chairman, but I would tell him that it is unprecedented for the chairman of a committee to change the subcommittee's markup without even looking at it," he said.

The subcommittee's chairman, Rep. Frank Annunzio, D-Ill., sounded a similar note, telling Rep. Gonzalez in a June 6 letter that his new bill would violate "the integrity of the subcommittee system."

Democrats to Caucus

Banking committee Democrats plan to caucus next week to discuss the Gonzalez bill.

A spokesman for Rep. Gonzalez expressed surprise at the reaction to the committee chairman's letter.

"The markup will be a very open process," said spokesman Jake Lewis. "Anything the task force has will be cosidered. I'm flabbergasted that anyone who knows Henry Gonzalez thinks he would shut out anybody's ideas."

In particular, Mr. Lewis noted that the financial institutions subcommittee had not addressed the issue of regulatory restructuring, but instead had appointed a special task force to develop an approach.

The task force appeared near agreement on Friday. A letter circulated among the task force members, which was intended to recap the proposal agreed to Thursday evening, said the Office of Thrift Supervision and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency should be merged into a new Treasury agency.

The new Federal Depository Regulatory Agency would have jurisdiction over national banks, federally chartered thrifts, and the holding companies for both.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. would become primary regulator of all state-chartered banks and thrifts, as well as their holding companies. The chairman of the Federal Reserve would be given a seat on the FDIC board.

However, the Fed would be limited to supervising the holding companies of banks and thrifts with assets of more than $10 billion.

The Fed has complained bitterly about losing its regulatory authority over state-chartered banks, and the central bank's strong views led one task force member, Rep. Stephen Neal, D-N.C., to vote against the proposal. Rep. Marge Roukema, R-N.J., was the only other member of the 12-member panel to vote against it.

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