Senate to Debate Omnibus Bill, But May Wait for House Revision

WASHINGTON - The Senate agreed on Wednesday afternoon to begin debate on the omnibus banking bill, but was expected to wait until the House completed action before taking up substantive amendments.

With less than two weeks left before Congress is scheduled to adjourn for the year, many Senators were said to be loathe to vote on controversial issues unless the House was prepared to pass a comprehensive measure.

A Different Strategy

If the process breaks down in the House, many observers now believe lawmakers will look for a routine piece of legislation to use as a vehicle for funding the Bank Insurance Fund and possibly the Resolution Trust Corp.

In negotiations leading up to Wednesday's decision to begin debate, the Bush administration and the Senate Banking Committee's Democratic and Republican leaders agreed to abandon efforts to reshape bank securities powers. The two sides also appeared to limit bank insurance activities.

Disagreement Still Evident

But they remained at odds on proposals to permit banks to branch across state lines. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Donald W. Riegle Jr. seemed to be leaning toward a proposal by Sen. Wendall H. Ford, D-Ky., that would permit states to "opt out" of interstate branching or to require that institutions enter only by acquisition.

Meanwhile, the industry appeared united in opposition to a bill crafted by the House leadership

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