The House of Representatives late Wednesday narrowly approved an extra $30 billion for the savings-and-loan-industry cleanup after daylong negotiations to work out a compromise bill.
The legislation waters down some of the tough conditions proposed by House Banking Committee Chairman Henry Gonzalez but contains reforms on management of the bailout and provisions on low-income housing.The compromise followed Tuesday night's rejection of four versions of the bill that the Bush administration says is desperately needed to provide more money to bail out scores of failed savings and loans, many ruined by mismanagement and fraud.
The bill, approved 192-181, opens the way for a conference committee that will iron out differences between the House bill and a measure passed by the Senate last week.
Legislation passed in 1989 provided $50 billion for the bailout, but virtually all this money has been used. Industry experts say the final bill for taxpayers for cleaning up the thrifts will reach $500 billion, including interest.
House leaders, who worked with Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady on the package, described the legislation as a fair compromise and one the Bush administration will be able to accept.
Gonzalez, D-Texas, acknowledged that the bill did not offer as many reforms as Democrats would have liked. But he said the House had no choice but to vote more money for the cleanup process.
"To fail to do so would invite disaster," he said, adding that this would shake confidence in federal insurance of deposits in the S&L industry.
Democrats who voted against the bill charged it will give the administration a blank check to use taxpayer money for years into the future to clean up the thrift mess.
Rep. Jim Slattery, D-Kan., described the bill as "a dirty deal for future generations."
But others Democrats saw it as a sensible compromise in the circumstances.
"We need the dollars," said Rep. Bruce Vento, D-Minn.
The administration has warned Congress that lack of a funding bill is adding $8 million a day to the thrift cleanup.
The Resolution Trust Corp. - responsible for closing failed thrifts, selling their assets and paying depositors - will not be able to continue taking over sick thrifts without additional funds.
The cash-strapped RTC would not be able to shut down ailing thrifts, which would then run up even bigger losses and add to the overall cleanup bill for taxpayers.
Public anger at the thrift disaster has made funding the bailout an extremely painful issue for many lawmakers, who are reluctant to be seen approving billions more taxpayer dollars for the cleanup.
"The taxpayers of this country will long, long remember how we cast our votes tonight," said Rep. Frank Annunzio, D-Ill.