Senate Bank Panel to Vote On Clarke Term Wednesday

WASHINGTON - After months of delay and bickering, the Senate Banking Committee plans to vote Wednesday on Robert L. Clarke's nomination to a second term as Comptroller of the Currency.

Sen. Donald W. Riegle, D.-Mich., announced the schedule Friday. Sen. Riegle, the committee chairman and Mr. Clarke's harshest critic, said the committee will also take up the nominations of Susan Phillips to the Federal Reserve Board and of David Bradford and Paul Wonnacott to the President's Council of Economic Advisers.

Close Vote Expected

Observers expect Mr. Clarke to get the committee's endorsement, but not necessarily by a wide margin. The Democrats who control the committee are keeping their intentions close to the vest.

If all nine Republicans on the panel vote to confirm, which is seen as probable, Mr. Clarke would need only two Democrats to gain a majority.

Once the Senate Banking Committee has voted, the nomination can proceed to a Senate vote with or without the panel's endorsement.

And Mr. Clarke is expected to have a smoother time with the full Senate than he had in a series of tough committee hearings.

Pressure to put the nomination to a vote has been building within the committee and from the White House.

"Many Senators began to feel that the venom involved in the hearings was unnecessary," said Karen Shaw, president of the Institute for Strategy Development.

Mr. Clarke has been serving without Senate approval since his five-year term expired last December. President Bush renominated him in January.

"We're just glad that we're moving on with it," said Frank Maguire, senior deputy comptroller for legislative and public affairs.

Questions About Failures

Just days before the vote was announced, the committee appeared intent on continuing to probe Mr. Clarke's handling of the wave of bank failures.

The Senate Banking Committee began an investigation even before the nomination was sent up in January. The Comptroller's Office supplied hundreds of thousands of pages of documents on the Bank of New England failure, real estate loan classification standards, and Texas bank mergers.

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