It's unlikely the House Banking Committee will approve its chairman's plan to have the housing agencies contribute to the thrift fund rescue, but Fannie Mae isn't taking any chances.
With a vote scheduled Thursday on a plan to shore up the Savings Association Insurance Fund in a new balanced-budget bill, Chairman Jim Leach intends to propose making Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac help pay off long-term bonds used to finance the thrift industry bailout of the late 1980s.
Few lobbyists give his proposal much of a chance and such key panel members as Reps. Marge Roukema, Rick Lazio, and Bruce Vento have already expressed opposition.
Nevertheless, Fannie Mae has declared an all-out battle to fight off any obligation for the Financing Corp. bonds. Though the giant government- sponsored enterprise has defeated previous Fico proposals with low-profile lobbying, its efforts this time around are very visible.
Sources said one of Fannie's well-connected hired guns, former White House chief of staff Kenneth M. Duberstein, has gone straight to the top, lobbying House Speaker Newt Gingrich in hopes of lining up GOP leaders against Rep. Leach's idea.
Also, Fannie sent no fewer than three lobbyists to stake out the July 16 meeting of committee Republicans at which Rep. Leach announced he would propose making Fannie and Freddie pay $400 million yearly - enough to cover half the Fico obligation. Fannie lobbyists waiting to get an instant update on Rep. Leach's plans were Gerry McMurray, John Heinz, and Laura Van Etten.
Most bank lobbyists, who would like nothing better than to see Fannie and Freddie help out with Fico, said Rep. Leach's proposal has little to no chance of winning Thursday.
But as the Iowa Republican sees it, the time has never been better to take on Fannie and Freddie. He argued they are more vulnerable than ever following recent Treasury Department and Congressional Budget Office reports indicating they pocket roughly $2 billion of their annual federal subsidies.
Thrift trade groups are warning that future efforts to recapitalize the deposit insurance fund may not enjoy unanimous support in the industry. In a July 16 letter to Congress, Western League of Savings Institutions president Lou Nevins warned that the assessment "may not be supported unanimously by our industry again" if lawmakers fail to pass the bailout legislation this year.
Also last week, the SAIF Advisory Commission warned in a letter to lawmakers that industry support for the assessment is waning.
A well-organized defense allowed the American Bankers Association to marshal the troops quickly and fight off Rep. Gerald Solomon's July 17 back-door effort to restrict the Comptroller of the Currency's ability to authorize new bank powers.
With only an evening's notice, the ABA bombarded lawmakers with faxes and phone calls.
With just a few hours to sway House members, the trade group sent an urgent call to 1,700 bankers, 200 industry lobbyists, 110 members of the American Bankers Council, and the executives at the 50 state ABA affiliates.
Edward L. Yingling, the ABA's chief lobbyist, was quick to give major credit to House Majority Leader Dick Armey, whose early ballot against the amendment persuaded many representatives to vote no.
Still, Mr. Yingling held out hope that bankers finally have the upper hand in their long-running battle with insurance agents. "People on the Hill are saying the insurance black hole that has been sucking in financial modernization may be closing up," he said.