WASHINGTON - Two key House Banking Committee Republicans made an 11th-hour effort Monday to stitch together an ammendment that would permit national banks to affiliate with insurance companies.
With the banking committee scheduled to begin deliberations today on Chairman Jim Leach's Glass-Steagall repeal bill, Reps. Richard Baker of Louisiana and Bill McCollum of Florida were talking with both the banking and insurance industries late Monday.
The thrust of the amendment would be to allow national banks to affiliate with insurance companies under a holding company structure.
The two lawmakers also held out a sweetener for the nation's independent insurance agents - a provision barring the Comptroller of the Currency from expanding the range of insurance products national banks can sell.
To satisfy banks, the representatives were offering to exempt powers already granted by the Comptroller, such as annuities and credit life insurance sales.
"It is going to be really hard to work something out before the markup," said Edward L. Yingling, chief lobbyist for the American Bankers Association, in an interview Monday. "It's a very complicated issue, and the parties involved are still very far apart - but we are discussing it."
The real problem in striking a deal lies in the lack of time before today's vote, according to Gary Hughes, vice president and chief council of securities and banking at the American Council of Life Insurance.
"The difficult thing here is the chairman seems wedded to a timetable that cuts short some very interesting discussions," Mr. Hughes said.
"There seems to be a general conceptual agreement on a lot of the issues, but there is hardly time to get it into legislative language and then have people say 'Yeah, that really reflects what we wanted,'" Mr. Hughes added.
Other amendments expected to be offered during the panel's deliberations include:
*A measure sponsored by Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del., to lift the 7% growth cap on grandfathered nonbank banks.
*Proposals by Rep. Dick Chrysler, R-Mich., to allow limited-purpose credit card banks to offer corporate cards and to ban the Retirement CD.
*Legislation drafted by Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy 2d, D-Mass., to require banks to obtain a Community Reinvestment Act rating of at least "satisfactory" before affiliating with a securities firm.
Consumer amendments such as Rep. Kennedy's are expected to have a difficult time in the Republican-controlled Congress. And Rep. McCollum is threatening to counter the Kennedy amendment with one repealing the reinvestment law.