Bankruptcy Pact Is Said to Be on the Table

WASHINGTON - Senate leaders were on the verge of a surprise breakthrough on bankruptcy reform legislation on Monday.Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott reportedly offered a compromise to Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle involving two controversial amendments. As always with this roller-coaster legislation, it was unclear whether the two sides would reach an agreement and avoid a procedural showdown scheduled for today that threatened to derail the legislation.

But supporters were optimistic about a deal and hoped it would propel the Senate to vote on the remaining amendments and final passage by late Wednesday.

"As of this minute, the prospects for completing Senate action look very good," lobbyist Philip S. Corwin, a partner with Federal Legislative Associates who represents the American Bankers Association on the legislation, said Monday afternoon.

However, the legislation faces further hurdles to enactment. The industry favors the stricter House bill, while the White House prefers pro-consumer provisions in the Senate version.

- Dean Anason


Bill Would Set Single Regulator for Housing GSEs

WASHINGTON - Rep. Richard H. Baker plans to introduce legislation in February that would merge the regulators of Fannie Mae and other government-sponsored enterprises serving the housing markets.Currently, the Office of Housing Enterprise Oversight supervises the capital adequacy and financial safety of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, while the Department of Housing and Urban Development ensures that these quasi-governmental companies satisfy their mission of making mortgages more plentiful and affordable by purchasing loans.

The Federal Housing Finance Board oversees both the condition and performance of the Federal Home Loan Bank System, which advances money to financial institutions to facilitate more mortgage lending.

An aide said Rep. Baker, chairman of House Banking's capital markets subcommittee, wants a single agency to oversee all these entities.

Under the Louisiana Republican's plan, the Office of Housing Enterprise Oversight and the Finance Board would be merged. HUD would be less involved, but maintain a role by holding a seat on the new agency's five-member board.

Several names are under consideration for the new agency, including the Federal Housing Oversight Board and the Regulatory Housing Board. Rep. Baker is supposed to decide on the name Thursday when he returns to Washington, his aide said.

Besides efficiencies, the reform is aimed at harmonizing capital and other rules and at making regulators more independent from the White House. "Richard's view is that it is inconsistent regulation" under the current system, the Baker aide said Monday. "His real intent here is to begin to develop a comprehensive GSE policy."

A spokeswoman for the Finance Board said that her agency would not take a stance until it sees the Baker proposal. A spokeswoman for the oversight office was unavailable to comment.

--Dean Anason

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