Until the last moment, House Republican leaders thought they had lost the vote on the financial reform bill Wednesday.

House Republican Conference Chairman John A. Boehner looked grim as he dashed into an office off the House floor to huddle with Majority Leader Richard K. Armey, Majority Whip Tom DeLay, and other party leaders just before the final vote. About 20 minutes later, Rep. Boehner emerged and made a beeline back to the House chamber without answering reporters' questions.

Besides calling in the lobbying muscle of House Speaker Newt Gingrich, other Republican leaders desperately rallied for support.

Rep. Boehner wandered the Republican side of the aisle asking, "'Can anybody help us?'" one staff member said. "He looked very concerned."

Rules Committee Chairman Gerald B.H. Solomon, a former Marine, exhorted the troops. "'Teamwork, come on, people, '" the staff member quoted him as saying.

Their efforts lead to three vote switches and some other last-minute ballots, turning the tide in the 214-to-213 victory.

Rep. Boehner, who as the leadership's point man on reform had his political reputation on the line, looked very relieved afterward. He pulled out a package of cigarettes when he met with reporters in the press gallery afterward and said he planned to celebrate with a glass of wine and dinner.

Another happy lawmaker was House Banking Committee Chairman Jim Leach, whose long-sought amendment prohibiting financial holding companies from owning commercial businesses was approved. "It was the right thing to do," the Iowa Republican said. "This was the most lobbied amendment in modern times."

Sen. Arlen Specter is coming to the rescue of another Pennsylvania bank.

In a letter last week to Thomas Renyi, the Pennsylvania Republican asked the Bank of New York chief executive to give up his quest for Pittsburgh- based Mellon Bank.

Sen. Specter added that he is "very concerned about bank mergers and acquisitions, even on a friendly basis." Bank of New York made an unsolicited offer for Mellon on April 22, which Mellon promptly rejected.

Senate Judiciary's antitrust subcommittee, which Sen. Specter chairs, will hold a hearing on banking industry consolidation later this month.

In March, Sen. Specter opposed First Union Corp.'s acquisition of Philadelphia-based CoreStates Financial Corp. He threatened to introduce legislation to block the merger and spoke against it at a Federal Reserve Board hearing. But the deal closed April 30.

Alice M. Rivlin may soon add the title "chairman," though Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan has nothing to fear.

Ms. Rivlin, the central bank's vice chairman, is expected to be appointed by President Clinton as the next chairman of the D.C. control board, the congressionally authorized panel that oversees most city services here. She will retain her Fed job.

She declined to comment on the pending appointment, although The Washington Post has reported that she already has begun trying to persuade several control board members to remain.

During last week's marathon debate in the House Judiciary Committee over consumer bankruptcy reform, Democrats continuously griped that Republicans were rushing to enact a bill. Then Rep. Jerrold Nadler noted that he wanted to make 60 amendments. That prompted Rep. Henry J. Hyde, chairman of the committee, to quip: "One wonders if you had a lot of time how many more amendments you could have come up with."

Comings and goings at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.:

Donna A. Tanoue will be sworn in as chairman May 26. The banking lawyer and former Hawaii state regulator was confirmed by the Senate on April 30.

Nicholas J. Ketcha will retire Dec. 18 after 33 years with the agency; he has been the FDIC's director of supervision since June 1995. Mr. Ketcha directed the agency's New York region from 1989 to 1995. His family remained in New Jersey when he made the move to Washington. Upon retiring, Mr. Ketcha says he will spend more time with his wife, play golf, and contemplate a move to the Poconos.

No word yet on his successor.

Maureen Sweeney was promoted to assistant director in the FDIC's insurance division. She has worked at the FDIC in a variety of positions since 1986, most recently as special assistant to the insurance division's director.

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