In another attempt to push his Glass-Steagall repeal bill, House Banking Committee Chairman Jim Leach has asked bankers and insurance agents to justify their objections.
Rep. Leach is expected to use the responses to illustrate that the two sides aren't far apart, and that a House vote on the bill would not be controversial.
On issues where opinion divides, Rep. Leach is expected to use each side's justifications to craft compromises.
House leaders have told Rep. Leach they won't allow the Glass-Steagall bill to come to a vote unless differences between the banking and insurance industries are resolved. The Iowa Republican has asked to bring his bill to the floor in late March or early April, but a preliminary schedule drafted last week by House Majority Leader Richard Armey, R-Tex., does not include time for the legislation.
The Bankers Roundtable, a trade group of big banks, and the Independent Insurance Agents of America are working on Rep. Leach's request.
Rep. Leach's staff has identified 10 areas of disagreement among bankers and insurance agents that have prevented a compromise.
The sticking points include a moratorium on the comptroller of the currency's ability to grant banks new insurance powers. The Bankers Roundtable has proposed a two-year restriction while the insurance agents say they will accept nothing less than five years.
Other disagreements include the agents' effort to roll back recent gains by national banks in the insurance arena by allowing states to regulate banks' insurance sales from small towns.
Bankers also are upset by the insurance group's consumer protection proposals, which would prohibit loan officers from selling insurance - a severe restriction for small banks. The agents also have urged that banks be prohibited from tying loans to insurance sales and be blocked from using nonpublic customer information for sales solicitations without proper disclosures.
The Bankers Roundtable has requested a 10-year moratorium on new state consumer protection and antidiscrimination laws that would put greater restrictions on banks than on other insurance sellers. The agents oppose limitations on state insurance regulators.
The bankers will submit a response "as soon as possible," said Alfred Pollard, senior lobbyist for the Bankers Roundtable.
"This is an opportunity to provide an explanation for our positions. We've never really put them down on paper," Mr. Pollard said.
IIAA staffers confirmed that they are preparing responses to Rep. Leach's request as well.