WASHINGTON The timeline for Senate Banking Committee leaders to reach a deal and vote on a bipartisan regulatory relief package for banks is likely to slip beyond an earlier goal to hold a panel vote by the middle of April, according to multiple sources.
The committee had tentatively sought a quick markup on a bill after it held a series of hearings exploring possible regulatory changes for community and regional banks, along with measures directed at the Federal Reserve Board and the Financial Stability Oversight Council.
But there's a growing expectation that legislation won't be ready for a vote when lawmakers return from a two-week spring break next week, despite some predictions that one could take place as early as April 16.
"There's too much work left to be done at this point to realistically expect a markup in April, let alone next week," said Isaac Boltansky, an analyst at Compass Point Research & Trading.
To be sure, committee staff have repeatedly said an April date was merely a goal, and industry sources say that efforts to strike a bipartisan deal are ongoing.
"There was never an April date set in stone, and the chairman is still committed to producing a bill soon," said a spokeswoman for Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., chairman of the committee.
Still, Shelby and Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the top Democrat on the panel, have their work cut out for them when they return next week from a joint trip to Europe. Though both lawmakers have suggested they are interested in working together on a compromise bill, recent hearings on a variety of issues highlighted that the two senators don't necessarily see eye-to-eye on several issues up for consideration by the committee.
Brown, for example, appeared cautious at two hearings on raising a $50 billion asset threshold set in the Dodd-Frank Act, which said banks over that level should be subject to enhanced regulatory standards. But the Ohio Democrat did not rule out changes to the provision.
He has also affirmed many times that he won't support any reforms that would roll back key provisions of the 2010 reform law.
Brown's support, along with backing from other Democrats on the committee, will be crucial for any bill to gain traction on the Senate floor and ultimately win approval by the White House.
"The feeling coming out of the hearings was that there were some negotiations that needed to take place between Shelby and Brown before anything was decided upon," said Edward Mills, an analyst at FBR Capital Markets. "I continue to believe both sides are not too far apart, they just need to have the provisions in there to politically sell the deal."
Observers are hopeful that the lawmakers' trip together will help set the stage for the two leaders to sit down at the negotiating table when they return, though it's unlikely to eliminate any major policy differences they may hold.
"I think it's helpful it helps the tone and it gets members in the mood to get things accomplished, but it's not going to paper over big policy differences," said Mark Calabria, director of financial regulation studies at the Cato Institute and a former Shelby staffer.
The bigger question going forward will be whether Shelby and Brown are able to reach a deal on regulatory reform legislation quickly, before the committee must focus on other priorities, like reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank and the transportation bill. The schedule for the Senate floor is also likely to fill up quickly, particularly as the chamber starts moving on various appropriations bills later this summer and into the fall.
"The timing becomes very interesting, particularly if you can't get something done in April or the first part of May it really shrinks the calendar," said James Ballentine, executive vice president of congressional relations and political affairs at the American Bankers Association. "There will be battles for limited floor time."
But others warn that it could take even longer for the lawmakers to hammer out a strong deal, pushing negotiations through the summer months.
"I personally do not think we will see a community bank regulatory relief bill markup until sometime this summer, perhaps just before the August break or maybe not until this fall sometime," said Camden Fine, president and chief executive of the Independent Community Bankers of America. "There are lots of moving parts and I do not believe Chairman Shelby will proceed to a markup until he gets what he considers to be a good, solid bill."