To say that the voters have spoken would be a gross understatement. The voters have created an upheaval the likes of which Washington experiences only once every 50 years or so.
I must admit that before Election Day 1994 1 favored term limits. I had come to believe that in the modern era of extraordinarily expensive media campaigns, the advantages of incumbency were simply too overwhelming to allow to happen what just happened.
Pundits and politicians have various theories for what message the voters delivered. I believe the public sent two related messages.
First, the voters expressed their distrust of the Clinton administration's policies. They wanted a stronger check on the ability of the administration to impose its agenda.
Second, the public was fed up with an ever-larger, more intrusive government. The Republicans put forward an agenda calling for a smaller, less invasive federal government. The voters signed on.
The election has enormous implications, nearly all positive, for the banking industry. Seldom in history have things been better aligned for major progress on banking reforms.
The Clinton administration has been very helpful to the banking industry during the past two years (putting aside the fair-lending and CRA issues, on which the Justice Department has been a loose cannon) and was instrumental in this year's legislative victories. The major impediment to even more substantial progress had been the Democratic-controlled House and Senate.
The Clinton administration should become even more amenable to the banking industry's agenda over the next couple of years. Frank Newman, an exceptionally capable financial executive who favors broad banking reform, has been elevated to deputy secretary of the Treasury. Moreover, the 1996 Presidential election is just around the comer, and the public has made abundantly clear what it thinks about advocates of big government.
The situation in the House of Representatives couldn't be more propitious for the banking industry. The Republicans made a contract with the American people that if the public allowed Republicans to control Congress for the first time in 40 years, Republicans would act to limit the role of government in people's lives.
The banking industry's agenda is totally consistent with the Republican contract. Bankers don't want any handouts or special favors. They simply want to be freed from the government shackles that prevent banks from competing in the marketplace.
The chairman of the House Banking Committee presumably will be Rep. Jim Leach. He will be one of the most knowledgeable, intelligent, and dedicated Banking Committee chairmen in history.
Rep. Leach reminds me of former Senate Banking Committee Chairman Bill Proxmire. Sen. Proxmire wouldn't do anyone's bidding. He would give issues honest consideration and would take whatever position he concluded was in the public interest. Bankers can't ask for more than that.
Much of the action in Congress takes place at the staff level. The majority staff of the House Banking Committee will undergo wholesale changes for the first time in 40 years.
The House Committee on Energy and Commerce, headed seemingly forever by Rep. John Dingell, is likely to be led by either Rep. Carlos Moorhead or Rep. Thomas Bliley. Rep. Moorhead is more senior, but some insiders expect a challenge from Rep. Bliley. While not too much is known about theft views on such things as repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, it's difficult to imagine how the views of either could be anywhere near as anti-bank as Rep. Dingell's.
The Senate Banking Committee will presumably be headed by Sen. Alfonse D'Amato. He has been a consistent and effective advocate of less government regulation.
Banks have been leery of Sen. D'Amato because he has generally sided with the securities industry against banks. The good news is that the banking industry has already achieved on the regulatory front much of what it needs in this area.
Things in Washington are set up just about as well as they can be for the banking industry. If I were in charge of banking's legislative agenda, I would be trying to get done in the next two years everything I could possibly accomplish.
Mr. Isaac, a former chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., is chairman and chief executive of Secura Group, a financial institutions consulting firm based in Washington.