The banking industry blew it by refusing to compromise on financial reform, House Republican Conference Chairman John Boehner said Tuesday.
"If banks had stayed at the table, the legislation would be more bank- friendly than it is today," said Rep. Boehner, the Republican leadership's point man on financial modernization.
Though there is not much time before Congress adjourns in October, Rep. Boehner predicted Senate Banking Committee Chairman Alfonse M. D'Amato would get the bill through the Senate this year.
"Most of the china has already been broken on the House side," he said. "We know where all the pieces are and what issues are most contentious.
"There is a successful conclusion to this bill, and I am confident that Sen. D'Amato will find it."
In a speech to the Exchequer Club, Rep. Boehner criticized the American Bankers Association and other trade groups for insisting two days before the House's May 13 vote that the bill could not be amended enough to win the industry's support.
"I think that actually helped us pass the bill," the Ohio Republican said. "In the end it was clear that banks were simply trying to kill it. They showed their hand a bit too early."
Rep. Boehner said the stubborn opposition of banking industry groups forced Republican leaders to include consumer protection measures drafted by Rep. John Dingell, the ranking Democrat on the House Commerce Committee. Rep. Dingell's endorsement drew some vital Democratic support to the bill.
"When we could not find a way to get solid banking industry support, what other choice did we have?" Rep. Boehner asked.
Besides the consumer protection measures, bankers also oppose provisions that would require new activities to be conducted in separately capitalized holding company affiliates rather than in direct subsidiaries.
Despite the banking industry's intensive lobbying, the bill passed by one vote.
Rep. Boehner blamed lobbying by the Clinton administration for the down- to-the-wire legislative battle. The legislation appeared all but dead before Republican leaders muscled some lawmakers into last-minute vote switching.
"The Treasury Department and the Democratic leadership were engaged right at the end and about 30 votes got peeled off," Rep. Boehner said. Without the administration's lobbying effort, the margin of victory might not have been larger, he added, but the win "would have been a lot easier."