House and Senate lawmakers trying to craft compromise legislation to revamp financial services law remained stymied yesterday on language involving lending to underserved people, the last remaining issue holding up a bill 20 years in the works.
Whether the bill will avoid a presidential veto apparently hinges on the outcome of hours of negotiations between Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Phil Gramm (R-Tex.) over the lending provisions, which concern the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act.
If they can reach an agreement--which many lobbyists and lawmakers have begun to doubt--a long-awaited bill to modernize financial services law could be enacted as early as next week.
Lawmakers trying to meld a bill that reconciles two versions of bank legislation passed earlier this year by the House and Senate say they will reconvene today, with or without an agreement between Gramm and the White House.
Then it is possible that negotiators will not be able to craft CRA language that would avoid a White House veto, sources close to the discussions said.
The White House, however, would be reluctant to veto the bill only over CRA, sources said, and would likely reopen another contentious issue, the financial privacy rights of consumers, which Monday negotiators had resolved on terms acceptable to the Clinton administration.
Sources familiar with the talks said the community lending issue now has become a test of wills between the White House and Gramm, who has never liked the CRA law.
House Banking Committee Chairman Jim Leach (R-Iowa) observed: "All legislation is a combination of personality, process and substance and at one time or another one or the other of those becomes more dominant."