WASHINGTON - After weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiations, Rep. Marge Roukema is expected to introduce on Tuesday a comprehensive plan to rescue the thrift insurance fund and eliminate the savings and loan charter.
The New Jersey Republican's bill mirrors closely what House Banking Committee Chairman Jim Leach is trying to accomplish through budget legislation. Rep. Roukema's measure is essentially a backup plan: If the budget bill falls apart, then a thrift fund fix can be accomplished through stand-alone legislation.
"It's also very important for the House to have this legislation in the works, because whether or not budget reconciliation passes, I don't think reconciliation should take the place of the legislative process," Rep. Roukema said in an interview Friday.
The chairwoman of House Banking's financial institutions subcommittee said her panel will hear testimony from regulators and industry representatives Wednesday. The subcommittee will vote on the bill Thursday, she said.
According to a draft of the Roukema approach circulating late last week, the Savings Association Insurance Fund would be merged with the Bank Insurance Fund by Dec. 31, 1996. Thrifts would have to convert to bank charters by the same date.
That's a year sooner than a fund merger or charter combination would take place under legislation supported by Rep. Leach and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Alfonse M. D'Amato.
As expected, the bill would impose a one-time assessment on thrifts of about 85 basis points and oblige banks to help carry the annual interest due on thrift bailout bonds.
The up-front fee on thrifts would be due Jan. 1, 1996, according to the draft, while banks would have to start chipping in for the bond interest when the bill is enacted.
Under the Roukema plan, thrifts would have two years - with a maximum of two one-year extensions - to divest any "noncomforming" activities, such as insurance and real estate enterprises.
This provision prompted an outcry from thrift industry representatives.
Forcing thrifts to drop these parts of their business would be a "draconian step backwards," said Paul A. Schosberg, president of the trade group America's Community Bankers.
"This is what is so screwy: here is a bill that is designed to stabilize our deposit insurance system, but what kind of signal is Congress sending by preparing to pull an institution's deposit insurance unless it surrenders these activities?," Mr. Schosberg said.