The House and Senate Banking Committee chairmen have been lobbying the lobbyists on financial reform. While a House Commerce subcommittee was voting on the legislation last week, Rep. Jim Leach and Sen. Phil Gramm met with the Financial Services Council.

Sen. Gramm crowed that he got exactly the bill he wanted through the Senate last month - tougher on powers for bank subsidiaries than the House version but weaker on community reinvestment requirements. He claimed this version gives him optimal negotiating leverage in a conference committee.

But Rep. Leach bragged as well, noting House Banking's overwhelming 51- to-8 vote on the bill in March. (The Senate bill, by contrast, passed 54- to-44 on a largely party-line vote.)

Sen. Gramm also made his case to 10 Republican members of House Banking last week, stumping for his bill's small-bank exemption and other rollbacks of the Community Reinvestment Act. The Texas Republican's 45-minute presentation, combining folksy humor and detailed charts, reportedly made an impression.

"There was a general feeling we ought to take a second look" at Sen. Gramm's CRA-related proposals, an aide to Rep. Richard H. Baker said.

But Rep. Leach cautioned those fellow members to take President Clinton's veto threat seriously. "He reiterated the need to get a bill that was acceptable to the administration," Rep. Leach's spokesman said.

If the House does pass financial reform legislation, expect a fight in the Senate over who gets appointed to the conference committee.

Sens. Robert Bennett and Rod Grams, who head key Senate Banking subcommittees, are likely candidates.

But they voted against Sen. Gramm on the pivotal amendment setting powers for direct bank subsidiaries, as did Sen. Richard C. Shelby.

After the Senate adopted the bill May 6, Sen. Gramm reportedly tried to slip through a motion putting three Republican committee allies on the conference panel: Sens. Wayne Allard, Connie Mack, and Michael B. Enzi. It failed when Democrats objected.

Fannie Mae has hired Nathan J. Gatten, Sen. Bennett's banking legislative aide for three years, as director of government relations to focus primarily on the Senate. Fannie Mae created the post to assist Duane Duncan, who is vice president of government and industry relations.

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