WASHINGTON - Senate Banking Committee Chairman Alfonse M. D'Amato said he will block a proposal sponsored by House Banking Committee Chairman Jim Leach to strip unitary thrifts of their special powers.

In a speech Tuesday to America's Community Bankers, Sen. D'Amato told the big thrift trade group that he would not permit the restrictions on unitary thrift holding companies proposed in the Iowa lawmaker's Glass- Steagall reform bill.

"Under no circumstances will I permit . . . turning back the clock and keeping companies like Household and Prudential and others out of the business by setting up artificial separations that will hold back . . . the unitary thrift situation," the New York Republican said.

Sen. D'Amato has introduced a bill that would allow common ownership of federally insured banks and commercial firms.

Rep. Leach's bill would eliminate unique powers granted to unitary thrifts, such as insurance and securities underwriting and, particularly, their eligibility for ownership by commercial and industrial companies.

Sen. D'Amato's comments drew cautious praise from Patrick Forte, president of the Association of Financial Services Holding Companies.

"It's good news to know that it still looks like Leach is alone in wanting this," said Mr. Forte, whose group represents several unitary thrifts. "But this thing is so lethal that we can't just turn the other way now."

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