Rep. John Linder, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, told big-bank lobbyists last week that he plans to co-sponsor legislation allowing banks and nonfinancial firms to merge.

The Georgian would become the first member of the GOP leadership to pick a side in the financial modernization debate. The legislation is sponsored in the House by Rep. Richard Baker, R-La., and in the Senate by Banking Committee Chairman Alfonse M. D'Amato, R-N.Y.

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