The Quip of the Week Award goes to Rep. Richard Baker.

The Louisiana Republican spoke to an America's Community Bankers confab the day after House Banking Committee Chairman Jim Leach predicted that the thrift fund rescue bill would not be enacted this year.

With tongue-in-cheek concern for the health of thrift executives who might have been prompted by Rep. Leach's comments to begin moving deposits from the ailing Savings Association Insurance Fund into the bank fund, Rep. Baker remarked:

"I hope everybody is all right today. No back pains from moving all that money?"

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Someone has to modernize the banking industry if Congress can't.

That's the defense Rep. John J. LaFalce made Wednesday on behalf of Comptroller of the Currency Eugene A. Ludwig.

Also addressing the community bankers conference, the New York Democrat criticized Rep. Leach for accusing the Comptroller's Office of circumventing the law by expanding national bank insurance powers.

"Gratuitous attributions of devious intent to serious professional regulators are unjustified and unfair," Rep. LaFalce said. He encouraged regulators like Mr. Ludwig to move ahead, especially in light of congressional inaction on financial services modernization.

"If - while the banking committee spins its wheels - the regulators are moving forward to try to meet the concerns of today, and doing so, I might add, totally within the confines of existing law, I, for one, congratulate them."

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House Banking's Democrats shuffled their subcommittee assignments, electing California's Maxine Waters ranking member of the general oversight and investigations panel.

She replaces Kweisi Mfume, who resigned from Congress in February to take the helm of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

New banking panel members Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois and Cynthia McKinney of Georgia were assigned to the housing and community opportunity subcommittee.

New York's Carolyn B. Maloney will take the seat vacated on the Joint Economic Committee by Mr. Mfume.

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Federal Reserve Governor Susan M. Phillips is spending more time in the air than on the ground:

She flies out this week for a central bankers conference in Paraguay and returns at the end of the week only to head out again to visit six Federal Reserve banks in eight days. She then is to take off to Europe for another conference.

All that comes on top of a four-day trip to Switzerland last week.

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Unlike his fellow lawmaker-authors, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Alfonse M. D'Amato is taking steps to prevent his book from getting him in trouble.

Now, thanks to a ruling from the Federal Election Commission, the New York Republican's campaign fund, Friends of Alfonse D'Amato, can send donors gift copies of his autobiography, "Power, Pasta and Politics."

The fund will buy several thousand copies at standard bulk rates, and Sen. D'Amato won't get any royalties from that purchase.

Books and lawmakers have been a bad mix. House Speaker Newt Gingrich faced ethics charges after receiving a multimillion-dollar contract for his most recent manifesto. And hawking an autobiography to lobbyists contributed to influence-peddling charges that forced Speaker Jim Wright to resign from Congress in 1989.

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