Undaunted by past failures, House Banking Committee Chairman Jim Leach said on Monday that he will unveil another plan to end interindustry disputes now stalling his financial modernization bill.
Rep. Leach, participating in a panel discussion carried by NBC's desktop video service, said his new plan will protect the banking industry's victory in Supreme Court's recent Barnett decision, which upheld banks' right to sell insurance from towns of 5,000 or fewer residents.
"Congress is strongly committed to not rolling back Barnett," the Iowa Republican said.
Rep. Leach would not reveal details of the new plan, but said it will be completed by April 26. However, last week in a letter to House Rules Committee Chairman Gerald Solomon, R-N.Y., Rep. Leach said his new plan will not spell out what constitutes discrimination against banks by state regulators.
His new bill will rely on the Barnett decision, which says only that states cannot "prevent or significantly interfere" with national banks' ability to sell insurance.
Rep. Leach's most recent plan to build support for his Glass-Steagall reform/regulatory relief bill failed to sway the banking industry, even though he agreed to allow common ownership of banks and insurance companies. Many bankers complained that state insurance regulators would have retained power to block banks from getting into the business.
Still unclear is whether Rep. Leach will ask Rep. Solomon for permission to remove restrictions on the Comptroller of the Currency's ability to grant new insurance powers - a provision banks also abhor.
Joining Rep. Leach on the NBC panel were Treasury Under Secretary John D. Hawke Jr. and Norwest Corp. chief executive Richard Kovacevich.
Mr. Kovacevich said the banking industry is desperate for the expanded securities underwriting powers Rep. Leach's bill also allows, but not at the expense of their freedom to sell insurance. "Our customers are more interested in buying insurance from us than debt and equity," he said.
House leaders, he said, allowed insurance agents to thwart financial modernization by insisting that restrictions on bank insurance powers be tacked to Rep. Leach's bill. "If not for the threat by insurance agents, this bill would be passed overwhelmingly," he said.