House Banking Committee Chairman Jim Leach will need some quick deals with Democrats to gain his panel's approval today for his financial modernization bill.
With several Republicans expected to oppose the legislation, Rep. Leach can't rely on his party's slim six-vote margin to move his bill. And few Democrats were in a mood to back the Iowa Republican Wednesday morning after meeting to discuss the pending vote.
"I intend to vote no," Rep. Henry Gonzalez, the committee's ranking Democrat, told his party colleagues. "He has not contacted us, even at the staff level, to suggest any interest in cooperating in a meaningful way."
The Banking Committee will hold a vote or "mark up" on Rep. Leach's sweeping financial modernization bill, which would expand bank securities powers and let bank and insurance companies affiliate. The bill has divided the industry over rules governing bank insurance sales.
Under fire from home-state banks and trade groups fighting the bill, Rep. Bill McCollum, R-Fla., and other Republicans are expected to vote against it.
Democrats were still preparing their amendments late Wednesday, but several lobbyists predicted that their proposals would include an effort to strip all insurance provisions from the bill.
Two senior Democrats complained that Rep. Leach was pressuring Republicans to vote down all amendments offered by the minority, lessening chances for Democratic support.
"This not a real markup," said Rep. John LaFalce, D-N.Y. "Jim Leach is trying to line up Republicans to kill all amendments. I think it's an insult."
Some lobbyists suggested that Rep. Leach may reach out to key Democrats by adding their proposals to his own slate of amendments. But Republican staff members said Wednesday that Rep. Leach had not decided whether to sponsor a list of changes.
Clinton administration officials attended Wednesday's meeting and urged banking panel Democrats to oppose the bill. Treasury Under Secretary John D. Hawke Jr. and Comptroller of the Currency Eugene A. Ludwig argued that the legislation would place unacceptable new limits on the regulators' ability to grant new insurance powers to banks.
Like the administration officials, Rep. Bruce Vento, D-Minn., said he believes the bill places would put too many restrictions on banks entering the insurance business.
"Most of us want to see modernization of the financial marketplace, but many aspects of this bill make that more difficult," he said.