The Senate Banking Committee will approve John D. Hawke Jr. as Comptroller of the Currency for a full-five year term, Chairman Phil Gramm said Thursday.
"It's my intention to confirm Jerry Hawke," the Texas Republican said.
Sen. Gramm has been holding Mr. Hawke's nomination hostage all year. President Clinton nominated the former Treasury under secretary to a full term, but Mr. Hawke currently holds the job under a one-year recess appointment that ends in December.
Mr. Hawke and Mr. Gramm have tussled over a number of issues, including the Community Reinvestment Act. Sen. Gramm attacked the OCC in January for allowing examiners to be involved in identifying bankers who would speak favorably of CRA.
"We have looked at this whole episode of efforts to drum up political support for CRA and we have concluded that the Comptroller's Office has taken action to respond to our concerns," Sen. Gramm said.
In April the OCC barred examiners from talking to bankers about politics to avoid any perception the agency intended to direct their views. "We're satisfied with a permanently changed policy. We feel good about that and are ready to move ahead," Sen. Gramm said.
Though Sen. Gramm did not say when the committee would vote, a spokeswoman said a hearing will be held on the nomination this month. An OCC spokesman declined to comment.
At a press conference, Sen. Gramm also said negotiations on the pending financial reform bill could extend into next year.
"I haven't given up hope for a conference report this year, but I have reconciled myself to seeing it carry over into next year," Sen. Gramm said. "I'm ready to get on with writing a bill. I'm disappointed that we are moving so slowly," he said.
Financial reform passed the Senate in May and the House in July.
Sen. Gramm said the bill will not let banks offer new products through direct subsidiaries as the Treasury Department has demanded. The Federal Reserve Board wants riskier activities such as securities underwriting done in a separate unit of a bank holding company.
"I'm going to oppose a bill that makes this transfer of authority to the Treasury," Sen. Gramm said. "Now, I'm not saying there can't be a compromise worked out, but I'm not going to let the Federal Reserve be rolled on this issue."
Sen. Gramm offered Thursday to resolve a procedural dispute that has delayed the financial reform bill. He had protested the composition of the conference committee on the legislation because the House delegation had more Democrats than Republicans, which he argued would give the minority party too much sway. House leaders had argued this was not a problem because some of their conferees were assigned to different sections of the bill and Republicans were guaranteed a majority on each section.
Sen. Gramm said that he would agree that only House conferees who have been assigned to the entire bill would get to sign the final compromise, which would insure Republicans have a majority. As of press time, the House had not responded to the offer.
Sen. Gramm called the press conference to criticize a proposal by Norman E. D'Amours, chairman of the National Credit Union Administration, to introduce a CRA-like regulation.
The rule, called low-income member service, will be formally proposed at a board meeting on Thursday. Mr. D'Amours first pitched the idea on July 28, saying federal credit unions would have to show examiners how they plan encourage more low-income people to join them.
Applications to expand membership could be rejected if examiners did not think a credit union was doing enough to recruit low-income members.
"I don't think he has a leg to stand on," Sen. Gramm said in reference to Mr. D'Amours.
Mr. D'Amours, in a prepared statement, said the proposal "is not CRA. It simply asked credit unions to state how they will reach out to the low-income consumers within their fields of membership." ?