Many industry lobbyists predict that the Senate will begin debate on the financial services reform bill within a week-possibly as early as Friday.

What path it takes from there has become an insiders' guessing game. The primary challenge for Congress is that the banking industry, which generally opposed the House version, says it could support the pro-bank bill approved by the Senate Banking Committee Sept. 11. But insurance agents, with close contacts to House leaders like Speaker Newt Gingrich, want the bill tilted back toward their interests. And a wild card remains in how hard the thrift industry will fight to remove limits on unitary thrift holding companies in both versions.

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