WASHINGTON Senate Banking Committee Chairman Phil Gramm said Tuesday that he is helping the Bush administration find candidates to succeed Office of Thrift Supervision Director Ellen Seidman and Comptroller of the Currency John D Hawke Jr.
Were looking for a few good men and women, the Texas Republican said in a speech to Americas Community Bankers. In fact, Id be very interested in some recommendations.
He declined to name candidates who have been suggested for either post. These are appointments the President makes, but we are interested in passing good names on.
Ms. Seidman, who addressed the same group, said the White House has not asked for her resignation. The administration has not talked to me at all about any issue of replacement, and Ive noticed that they have been consistent with respect to the term appointees in not moving to replace them, she said.
An OCC spokesman said the administration has not spoken to Mr. Hawke about being replaced, nor asked for his resignation.
Separately at the ACB conference, Rep. Robert Ney, R-Ohio, said the administration is working on legislation to combat abusive lending. White House economic advisor Philippa Malmgren, who spoke to the thrift executives about the administrations $1.62 trillion tax cut proposal, would not comment on the bill.
However, Sen. Gramm reiterated his opposition to combating abusive lending with new laws, but said he may be open to regulatory fixes. (The Federal Reserve Board is considering a plan to increase the number of loans subject to the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act and expand reporting requirements under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act.)
Sen. Gramm also said he hopes to remove a predatory lending amendment from bankruptcy overhaul legislation that would make companies that purchase high-cost loans from bankrupt originators liable if the loans are found to violate existing fair-lending laws.
Bankruptcy reform, a top industry priority, is stalled in a political dispute after clearing the House and Senate last month. Senate Republicans and Democrats cannot agree on the composition of the House-Senate conference committee that will reconcile the two versions of the bill.
But Sen. Gramm said he was optimistic about its eventual passage. Were going to pass the bankruptcy bill. I cant tell you how, but I know.
Another priority of the thrift group is legislation to repeal a Depression-era ban on interest-bearing checking accounts as early as 2003, temporarily expand sweep accounts, and let the Federal Reserve Board pay interest on bank reserves. The bill cleared the House Tuesday afternoon; similar legislation is on a slower track in the Senate.
Sen. Gramm said he supports allowing banks to pay interest on business deposits, including sweep accounts where funds are moved overnight from non-interest-bearing commercial checking accounts into interest-bearing ones. However, he said he is not planning to hold separate hearings on the measure. Rather, he said he expects business checking legislation to be wrapped up in a larger bill passed either at the end of this year or next year.
Ms. Malmgren would not comment on the White Houses position on the business checking legislation. Once President Bushs tax and budget priorities are enacted, then many of these other issues will fall into place, she said.