Congress is taking longer than expected to appoint negotiators on financial reform legislation, making it increasingly doubtful that a compromise will be reached before the August congressional recess.

The House selections are expected to be forwarded to the Senate today or early next week, a House Banking Committee spokesman said. The Senate will not pick its team until next week at the earliest, according to a Senate Banking Committee spokeswoman.

After the House approved a reform bill by 343 to 86 on July 1, many lobbyists and Capitol Hill sources predicted a conference committee would be named this week.

That panel's job will be to blend the House bill with the significantly different version that the Senate adopted 54 to 44 on May 6.

But House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert is still mulling the size and composition of the House delegation, and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Phil Gramm is expected to wait for that decision before tipping his hand.

Sources predicted that the House will send 12 lawmakers. One of Rep. Hastert's key decisions will be whether the Banking Committee should get the majority of members, as it has demanded. House Commerce Committee Chairman Thomas J. Bliley Jr. wants equal representation.

The Senate is expected to send five to nine conferees. Speculation has swirled about which Republicans Sen. Gramm will select.

Some say Sen. Gramm wants to exclude fellow party members who opposed him on powers for direct bank subsidiaries, but other sources said he will abide by seniority.

"It is all rank speculation because the chairman really has not decided," Sen. Gramm's spokeswoman said.

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