With Congress' Time Running out, Banking Bills Face an Uncertain Ride on Legislative Roller Coaster

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WASHINGTON -- Congress returns Wednesday for the final month of the legislative session. And that means it's probably last call for the financial industry to win some prizes in 1984.

At this point, with the House and Senate in an apparent stalemate over how to proceed on banking legislation, it is too soon to accurately predict the outcome.

Most observers, though, expect to see a compromise bill passed, in part because of pressing concerns about what to do with nonbank banks. If a bill is to be passed, there is the question of what Congress might approve in the way of new powers for banking institutions and new protections for consumers.

But there are other observers, apparently in the minority at this point, who suspect there might be no banking bill at all passed this year. One reason is the faction within the industry, made up primarily of large banks, that would prefer to see no bill over one that does not include significant new powers for banks.

Also of interest are House Banking Committee hearings scheduled to begin Sept. 18 on the problems of the Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Co., including the adequacy of supervision by the Comptroller of the Currency. These hearings could affect the House's willingness to consider broadening bank powers.

"There are too many ifs, too many premises right now," one banking agency official said last week. "I don't think I've ever seen things so confused on a bill at this late stage. There is just no emerging consensus." Could Be Last-Minute Decision

With the House and Senate still waiting to vote on their bills, and with time needed to iron out their differences, and with very few actual working days left before Congress' scheduled adjournment Oct. 4, banking legislation again could be decided in the waning moments of the session, with much of the work done behind closed doors.

The bill passed by the House Banking Committee (H.R. 5916) aims primarily at closing the loophole that has permitted the chartering of nonbank banks, limited-service banks that can operate interstate.

The bill approved by the Senate Banking Committee (S. 2851) would close the nonbank loophole too, but it also would expand bank powers, sanction regional interstate banking arrangements worked out by the states, limit brokered deposits, and permit interest payments to banks on reserves they hold.

It is possible that the Senate will begin voting on its bill as early as Thursday of this week, but many see next week as more likely.

The House is waiting to see what the Senate does before taking up its bill.

Several factors could work against passage of a comprehensive bill this year. One is the time factor. At this point a "lame duck" session -- a session after the elections that would include the present membership -- appears highly unlikely. And in the few remaining work days before the election break, Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker, R-Tenn., and other leaders have other legislative priorities that could take up much of the remaining time.

Still, as Congress has proved in the past, there are many ways to put legislation in the fast lane if agreements can be reached among the various leaders. Amendment Battles

Another factor working against a big bill this year is the complexity and controversial nature of many of the proposals. A look at likely amendments also indicates that reaching an agreement could take a bit of work.

Chairman Jake Garn of the Senate Banking Committee is expected to propose adding mutual fund powers to the bill and deleting provisions that limit the insurance powers of some state banks. These amendments are in for a tough fight because of powerful interest-group opposition.

Sen. William Proxmire of Wisconsin, the ranking Democrat on the Banking Committee, is also planning several major amendments. One would require U. …