WASHINGTON House Banking Committee member Ken Bentsen predicted Wednesday that Rep. Marge Roukema will be the panels next chairman and that the new Congress will pass medical privacy laws and debate but not necessarily adopt deposit insurance reform.
In a speech to the Exchequer Club, the Texas Democrat said Rep. Roukema, R-N.J., is the safe bet, but not by much to become committee chairman. Rep. Richard Baker, R-La., is challenging her bid, with the wild card for the seat being Rep. Michael G. Oxley, R-Ohio, who is chairman of the House Commerce subcommittee on finance.
I am friends with both Marge Roukema and Richard Baker, but there will be a different style to them, Rep. Bentsen said. Rep. Roukema, he said, would be more like current chairman Jim Leach, while Richard is a little more aggressive and would probably push the envelope in many areas.
Under either chairman, Rep. Bentsen said, the committee will look into merging the Bank Insurance and the Savings Association Insurance funds, as well as merging the bank and thrift charters.
That will be perhaps the most controversial issue we deal with, Rep. Bentsen said, noting that committee consideration of deposit insurance reform does not mean it will happen.
Rep. Bentsen, who is generally popular among bankers, said he is more confident that there is enough bipartisan support to enact medical privacy legislation next year prohibiting financial institutions from sharing customers health information among affiliates without explicit customer consent.
Further, he predicted that some states, particularly California and Texas, will take the lead on laws protecting the privacy of financial information, perhaps forcing Congress down the road to pass a federal preemption for financial products.
Regardless of who is chairman, Rep. Bentsen said he expects House Banking to continue examining government-sponsored enterprises and legislation that would limit regulation of swaps.
He said he does not think the committee will spend much time on predatory lending. Its less likely that Republicans will pursue this unless we see evidence of abuse in lending and a situation where you have rising bad loans associated with predatory lending, Rep. Bentsen said. However, under a Democratic administration, regulators likely would spend more time on the issue, he said.