The odds the Senate Banking Committee will vote on financial reform this year increased last week, but chances remain slim that the Senate will enact the legislation by yearend.
Supporters said they were encouraged by upbeat statements from committee Chairman Alfonse M. D'Amato and other members at hearings last week. Yet they are hedging their bets because the Senate's calendar is crowded and banking groups and the Treasury Department still oppose it.
"There is a 20% chance this bill will be marked up in committee and pass the full Senate," said Annie Hall, lobbyist for Banc One Corp. "The odds are improving," said Gary E. Hughes, the American Council of Life Insurance's chief counsel for securities and banking. "I don't know if it is odds-on now, but it is certainly moving in that direction."
Opponents disagreed. "I didn't see one senator say they supported the bill, and all kinds of difficult issues were raised," said Edward L. Yingling, chief lobbyist for the American Bankers Association. "It is very controversial."
Marty Farmer, legislative counsel for the Independent Bankers Association of America, said senators will be preoccupied with higher priority legislation in their remaining 30 to 35 workdays this year.
Lobbyists on both sides expect a flurry of behind-the-scenes activity by the committee in July, with a vote possible next month or in September. That would leave supporters with ample time to win, said Samuel J. Baptista, president of the Financial Services Council. "You have got to take it one step at a time," he said.
The Independent Insurance Agents of America is disputing a Dow Jones news service report that the word "insurance" may be dropped from the group's name.
Explaining the move, the wire service quoted Big I spokesman Peter van Aartrijk as saying many members sell noninsurance products and that consumers perceived insurance as "boring," "confusing," and expensive. A rival group, the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents, jumped on the opportunity to take a swipe at a rival, declaring its members proud to sell insurance. "They do not have an identity crisis about this," said John G. Riley, president of the professional insurance agents group.
But Mr. van Aartrijk denied in an interview that the group is pondering a name change. It is merely considering dropping or de-emphasizing the word "insurance" from its logo, which features an eagle perched atop a capital letter "I." The group, which plans to apply for a thrift charter so that its members may provide banking products, has been studying new marketing approaches as its broadens its services, he said.
Two prominent industry players remain in limbo as the White House drags its feet on the selection of the next ambassador to Ireland.
Federal Housing Finance Board Chairman Bruce A. Morrison and banking lobbyist Paul S. Quinn are in the running, but The Washington Post recently reported former Wyoming Gov. Mike Sullivan has the inside track.
"To my understanding, I am still under serious consideration," said Mr. Quinn, a partner in the Washington law firm Wilkinson, Barker, Knauer, & Quinn, whose primary client is Fleet Financial Group. "I remain very interested in the position."
A spokesman for Mr. Morrison said that he "has no plan to leave the Finance Board."
Merger partners Citicorp and Travelers Group have not revealed how they will combine their lobbying shops here, but the companies have announced that vice chairman Charles E. Long will oversee the post-merger company's government relations.