Two influential House Banking Committee members are asking Chairman Jim Leach to move regulatory relief legislation as a separate bill this spring, but the Iowa Republican rejected that deadline.
At a meeting of committee Republicans on Thursday, Reps. Richard Baker of Louisiana and Marge Roukema of New Jersey - both subcommittee chairmen - urged Rep. Leach to cut regulatory relief free from Glass-Steagall legislation if the logjam blocking that measure can't be broken soon.
Rep. Roukema said in an interview she wants April to be a "line in the sand" after which the committee should go ahead with a free-standing regulatory relief plan.
"We should do that if there are further delays on Glass-Steagall," said Rep. Roukema, who leads the financial institutions and consumer credit subcommittee.
"I think it's very important this year to have progress on regulatory- burden reform," she added.
Rep. Leach said he is willing to bring a separate regulatory relief bill to the House floor this year but doesn't want to commit to any time frame.
The banking committee has already approved the combined Glass Steagall- regulatory relief package, but that measure has become controversial. Many bankers oppose the package because it sets limits on their insurance activities. Those restrictions were placed on the bill at the insistence of House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rules Committee Chairman Gerald B.H. Solomon, both allies of insurance agents.
An aide to Rep. Baker said the legislator is pleased Rep. Leach agreed to move stand-alone legislation this year, even though he doesn't want to wait until after April.
Rep. Baker still hopes to convince Chairman Leach to take action this spring on regulatory relief, the aide said.
Other committee Republicans are not pressuring Chairman Leach to move quicker, Capitol Hill staffers said. Rep. Michael Castle of Delaware said he is willing to follow Rep. Leach's lead, for example. Rep. Bill McCollum of Florida also will go along with the chairman, an aide said.
Edward L. Yingling, chief lobbyist for the American Bankers Association, said his group would love to see regulatory relief pass the House this spring.
However, he said, legislation could still be enacted if that deadline is missed, because the Senate Banking Committee has already approved its own version of the measure.
Alexandria, Va.-based banking consultant Bert Ely cautioned that insurance agents may fight a "clean" regulatory relief bill not limiting bank insurance powers.
On the other hand, House leaders are no longer willing to stall a pro- business bill, countered Kenneth Guenther, executive vice president of the Independent Bankers Association of America.