WASHINGTON - Former Goldman Sachs co-chairman Robert Rubin, en route to winning Senate confirmation as Treasury secretary, warned lawmakers against moving too quickly on financial industry modernization.
"We can make American financial markets more competitive and more efficient through modernizing regulatory structure and regulations, but the issues are very complex and competing considerations must be weighed carefully and thoughtfully," Mr. Rubin said.
Both the House and Senate banking committees are expected to consider legislation this year to overhaul the regulation of the banking and financial services industry. For the administration, financial industry modernization could be the major banking issue on its agenda.
In a brief confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday, Mr. Rubin also cited the Community Reinvestment Act as part of the administration's effort to make capital available to small business.
"The Community Reinvestment Act was designed for a particular purpose within that context, which is to make sure that economically depressed regions are not treated unfairly by lending institutions, and to make sure that capital is available on an economic basis in those regions," Mr. Rubin said.
Mr. Rubin, who headed President Clinton's National Economic Council, won the Senate Finance Committee's endorsement early in the day and appeared well on his way to winning confirmation from the full Senate.
Although Senate rules prescribe that a full Senate confirmation must occur at least three days after the committee-level approval, Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole said Tuesday he hoped to waive the rule and hold a vote before the end of the day.
"We'll do the best we can to bring it up on the floor today, so you can start working at Treasury tomorrow," Sen. Dole said.
Finance Committee Chairman Bob Packwood took advantage of the presence of a quorum and called for an immediate vote on Mr. Rubin's nomination, even though lawmakers had not had a chance to question him yet.
"I knew this was going to be easy, but I didn't know they'd vote before the questions," Sen. Dole quipped after joining the hearing.
Mr. Rubin drew praise from nearly all of the lawmakers on the panel, but also was questioned extensively on a myriad of topics, including a variety of tax proposals pending before Congress.