Top Clinton administration officials pressed the financial services industry this week to support them on financial reform or risk having no bill.
Gary Gensler, the Treasury Department's under secretary for domestic finance, and Gene Sperling, the director of the National Economic Council, met with about 20 lobbyists Monday to stress that the President will veto the legislation if it weakens the Community Reinvestment Act or national bank charter.
With the pending departure of Secretary Robert E. Rubin, the officials sought to dispel any notions that the administration's resolve will weaken under nominee Lawrence H. Summers.
"The message could not have been clearer," said Kenneth A. Guenther, executive vice president of the Independent Community Bankers of America. Lobbyists were told "there is no policy break when Secretary Rubin leaves."
Mr. Gensler and Mr. Sperling embraced the House Banking Committee bill because it would grant broader powers to direct bank subsidiaries and impose CRA requirements on bank mergers with securities or insurance companies. Sources at the meeting said the administration expects industry lobbyists to urge lawmakers to heed these warnings if they want a bill.
The officials did not demand extensive privacy protections, but lobbyists expect the White House to remain coy on this issue to keep leverage on the industry.
White House Chief of Staff John Podesta has invited chief executives of at least a dozen of the largest banking, insurance, and securities companies to join in a conference call Thursday to repeat the same message, but it has not been finalized.
Steve Bartlett is off to a fast start as president of the Financial Services Roundtable. After a week on the job, he had held a news conference and met with the leaders of the House and Senate Banking Committees, House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier, and Comptroller of the Currency John D. Hawke Jr.
When asked if he wants to work for Texas Gov. George W. Bush if he wins the presidency, the former Texas congressman replied, "I am a supporter of George W. Bush's and longtime friend" but came here solely for the Roundtable job.