Majority Leader Trent Lott said the Senate will vote on financial reform in early May.

"I consider this a very important piece of legislation," Sen. Lott wrote Senate Banking Committee Chairman Phil Gramm in a March 12 letter released Wednesday. "I will do everything I can to work with you to get this legislation passed."

The majority leader is planning to begin debate the week of May 3 or May 10, which gives Sen. Gramm and committee Democrats less than two months to reach a compromise on the bill's community reinvestment requirements and other controversial provisions.

The timetable in the House is less certain, but Republican leaders are tentatively aiming for an early May vote as well.

Votes in both chambers so early in a two-year congressional term would be unprecedented, said Edward L. Yingling, chief lobbyist for the American Bankers Association. "The history of this bill is that it didn't pass one body until May of the second year of a Congress."

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