The most comprehensive banking bill since the Great Depression cleared a House committee this week after 16 1/2 grueling hours of debate, but it faces an uncertain future with little time left in Congress' legislative year.
The bill, approved by the House Banking Committee on a 30-20 vote, grants banks broad new securities powers but restricts their ability to enter real estate and insurance and imposes new obligations on them to serve the poor.The bill now is headed for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where the chairman, Rep. John D. Dingell, D-Mich., is known to be skeptical of letting banks into the securities business.
Depending on how long House Speaker Jim Wright, D-Texas, allows for Dingell's review, the powerful Michigan Democrat could kill the bill through delay or exact concessions by threatening delay.
Congress is preparing to leave town for its summer recess on Aug. 12 and won't be back until Sept. 6. Then, it plans only a month-long session before adjourning for the fall election campaign.
"There's a real question whether this bill is going to pass the House. It's a very controversial bill and there just isn't much time," said Edward Yingling, chief lobbyist for the American Bankers Association, the industry's largest trade group.
Aides to Dingell, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Wright has not yet decided on a deadline for the Energy and Commerce Committee, but they indicated that Dingell is not inclined to act quickly.