Key Republican lawmakers remain upbeat on financial reform legislation.
House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert on Friday said it is "realistic" to expect the House and Senate to adopt their bills and settle on compromise legislation by August.
"My prediction is that bill is going to get done," Speaker Hastert said at the Independent Insurance Agents of America's annual legislative conference.
Speaking to reporters afterward, Speaker Hastert said Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott told him late last week that the full Senate would take up the bill the week of May 3. The speaker added that he expects the House Commerce Committee to vote on financial reform by its May 14 deadline.
Sen. Jim Bunning, a member of the Banking Committee from Kentucky, told the agents that he is "confident" that legislation will be enacted this year. However, he warned that disputes over the community reinvestment requirements still threatened to doom it.
He said Senate Banking Chairman Phil Gramm has taken such a hard line on the issue as a tactic to water down the tougher requirements in the House bill. "What Chairman Gramm is doing is trying to have something to negotiate with when he gets to conference (committee)."
Sen. Bunning urged compromise, such as an agreement to preserve the current Community Reinvestment Act and add no new requirements. "It is really time to move ahead," he said. "We can't afford to let the new century find us with an antiquated financial services regulatory system."
CRA was the focus of a briefing Sen. Gramm gave lobbyists Thursday on the bill's progress-a "pep rally" as one Washington wag characterized it.
After Sen. Gramm explained Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan's recent letter and agency memo on financial reform's various CRA provisions, a lobbyist asked him about the community activists who held a demonstration on his front lawn on April 11.
Feigning sadness, and drawing a big laugh, Sen. Gramm reportedly replied, "They killed my little flowers."
Turning more serious, Sen. Gramm criticized the protesters, claiming they had turned a philosophical debate into a personal matter.