WASHINGTON Fair-credit reporting legislation has reemerged as a contender during the final hours of this year's congressional session, though congressional sources said enactment is far from assured.
The House approved a compromise version of the bill Tuesday afternoon, and sent the measure back m the Senate for a new vote. The Senate is expected to amend it further and return it to the House.
"They'll probably turn it into a Christmas tree," said one House aide.
The measure could face trouble in the House if too many nongermane amendments are added, the House staffer added.
However, the House and Senate appear to have worked out their differences on the fair credit reporting provisions of the bill.
"We've worked very closely with the House and come to agreement on all of the issues," said Andy Vermilye, legislative director for Sen. Richard Bryan, D-Nev. "We've sort of had a 'staff conference' on the bill, and we're urging the Senate Majority Leader to take it up as soon as possible."
The. only possible sticking points in Senate approval would have nothing to do with the contents of the bill, Mr. Vennilye said.
"People are looking at it to attach other provisions," he said. "We are trying to discourage that."
However, Edward L. Yingling, chief lobbyist for the American Bankers Association, said the bill may prove attractive to lawmakers with last minute amendments.
"Any bill could become a political chip for unrelated items," he said.
And with Congress set to adjourn at the end of next week, almost any objection could block the fair credit bill. As a result, compromises made in the Senate to ensure passage of the measure could doom the bill in the House.
The measure that passed the full House on Tuesday aims at making it easier for costumers to find and correct errors in their credit reports.
However, it also makes banks and other credit providers responsible for data passed on to credit bureaus.
"Banks and department stores that furnish information must do so accurately and they pass correct errors," said Rep. Joseph Kennedy 2d, D-Mass., on the House floor Tuesday.
Rep. Kennedy chaired the House Banking subcommittee that first considered the measure, and he served as the bill' s floor manager.
"This bill will improve the quality of information that is put into credit reports to begin with," he added, referring to the new requirements for credit providers.
However, industry spokesmen warned that the measure will prove troublesome for financial institutions.
"This will add new liabilities, procedures and regulatory burden for banks," said Nessa Feddis, senior federal counsel at the American Bankers Association. Banks don't make any money from credit reports, but they will have to pay. The complaint was directed at the ones selling the credit reports, not banks.
The measure aims to increase the accuracy of credit reports and make it easier for consumers to correct mistakes and allow them to get free reports every two years.
It also requires that consumers be notified of action taken against them which is based on their credit reports.
States will be barred from passing more stringent credit laws of their own for eight years.
Banks and other credit providers had battled for a permanent preemption, but consumer organizations and state attorneys general had opposed any kind of limit on the states.
But one lawmaker Tuesday said the compromise was reasonable.
"Eight years is long enough to ensure foster national uniformity, but not so long as to stifle state creativity," said Rep. Alfred McCandless, R-Calif.
In addition, the Federal Trade Commission to modify certain requirements to protect consumers. Handing the FTC jurisdiction does not sit well with industry representatives.
"It is alarming that the FTC has the ability to make provisions more stringent
even though they are not necessarily very well-versed in banking practices." Ms. Feddis said. "They're also not as sensitive to safety and soundness issues as banking regulators are."