The House Banking Committee voted yesterday to trim the Bush administration's request for as much as $57 billion more for the savings and loan cleanup to $10 billion.
The approval, by voice vote, sets a spending ceiling for money that must be provided in a separate appropriations bill.
Administration officials had warned for months the $50 billion that President Bush sought and got from Congress a year ago would not be enough, and Treasury Secretary Nicholas F. Brady suggested over the summer that another $40 billion to $80 billion might be needed.
However, the administration never submitted a formal request for the money until Brady wrote the chairmen of the House and Senate banking committees two weeks ago, saying virtually all of the original $50 billion had been spent. He warned that the cleanup "will virtually cease within the next two months unless additional funds are provided."
The Senate Banking Committee immediately approved $57 billion more, the amount the administration said was needed to keep the cleanup running through the 1991 fiscal year that began Oct. 1 and maintain reserves for covering future losses to falling real estate values.
House Democrats, joined by some Republicans, balked, saying administration officials would first have to appear before the committee to detail the need for more funds and share more of the political heat for the swelling S&L problem.
Brady, however, refused repeated requests by the House committee to testify last week.
The committee's chairman, Rep. Henry Gonzalez (D-Tex.), said further money to keep the cleanup going beyond February will not occur "until Secretary Brady and other officials of the administration appear in full-dress oversight hearings."
Gonzalez said he had a commitment from House leaders to speed the short-term bill to the House floor, where it was expected to pass with little debate.
Congressional and administration sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said they do not expect the Senate Banking Committee's bill to ever get to a vote.
Instead, they said, the Senate is expected to attach the House version to another bill, possibly one toughening penalties for S&L fraud, through a parliamentary maneuver that would allow senators to avoid a recorded roll-call vote on the issue.