Though other Republican leaders are reluctant, Rep. John Boehner continues to press for a task force to shepherd financial modernization legislation through Congress.
Last week several bank lobbyists insisted the task force was "a done deal," but a spokesman for Rep. Boehner, the Republican Conference chairman, said House Speaker Newt Gingrich does not want to preempt the House Banking Committee's work.
"Unfortunately nothing's concrete yet," said the spokesman.
House leaders may be holding off to avoid any appearance of retribution against Banking Committee Chairman Jim Leach, who opposed Rep. Gingrich's reelection as speaker in January.
Rep. Gingrich first suggested the task force last fall after becoming frustrated with trade group disputes that blocked financial services reform in the last Congress. If he decides to go ahead, the panel would include members from the Banking and Commerce committees as well as other interested lawmakers, sources said.
House leaders have not discussed the task force idea with Rep.
Leach, according to a spokesman for the Iowa Republican.
Kenneth Guenther, executive vice president of the Independent Bankers Association of America, was less than diplomatic last week after Treasury Under Secretary John D. Hawke Jr. called off a speech before the group's annual convention in March.
Clearly miffed, Mr. Guenther speculated the Treasury official's move was a reprisal for IBAA lobbying against proposals that would let nonfinancial firms buy banks.
"He's the first person to cancel on us in 15 years," Mr. Guenther said. "We regret his decision very much, but we are profoundly against his plan to let Microsoft buy a bank."
Mr. Hawke has urged Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin to include broad affiliation among banks and commercial firms as part of the administration's forthcoming report on financial modernization.
Through a spokesman, Mr. Hawke denied IBAA lobbying prompted the cancellation. Rather, the group's convention takes place just two days before Treasury's March 31 deadline for the financial modernization report and Mr. Hawke predicted he would be too busy to make the trip.
Six big-bank lobbyists had a private get-together on Jan. 29 with Sen. Lauch Faircloth, the new chairman of Senate Banking's financial institutions subcommittee.
The lobbyists, whose political action committees contributed $9,500 to Sen. Faircloth in 1996, joined the senator at Sam & Harry's, a Washington steak house known for its clubby atmosphere and well-connected patrons.
Joining the North Carolina Republican were lobbyists Rex Wackerle of BankAmerica Corp., Carter McDowell of BancOne Corp., Marty Farmer of Barnett Banks Inc., Cory Strupp of J.P. Morgan & Co., Peter Brereton of KeyCorp, and Walter Day of Mellon Bank Corp.
Their conversation was "purely social" said one source, and banking issues were "barely discussed."
Jack Burkman, banking aide to Rep. Rick Lazio, joins Washington lobbying firm Smith-Free Group on Feb. 10. Mr. Burkman, whose clients will include Freddie Mac, plans to tackle banking and entertainment issues.
A member of Rep. Lazio's staff since 1994, the 30-year-old Mr. Burkman previously was a lawyer for the American Bankers Association.