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February 1, 1999

New Cast Take Seats in Congress

By Jeffrey L. Winograd

A new cast is in place in Congress to handle legislation of interest to the securities industry.

The most prominent face is that of Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas), who is now chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.

He replaces former Sen. Alfonse D'Amato (R-N.Y.), who was popular with some groups on Wall Street. D'Amato lost his recent bid for reelection.

Gramm has already said he will be active in several areas of interest to the securities industry, from Section 31 transaction-fee reduction to financial-services modernization. He will also assert legislative jurisdiction over financial derivatives.

Already Gramm, who does not mince words (he famously declared in December that he would rather go to the dentist than attend President Clinton's State of the Union address), has established a modus operandi with Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Arthur Levitt.

"Gramm and Levitt have agreed to disagree on some things," an SEC source said. "Perhaps that's the best way to start."

Leadership of the Senate subcommittee on securities, which oversees the stock markets and the SEC, has been passed on to Sen. Rod Grams (R-Minn.), who replaces Gramm. Grams faces reelection in 2000.

Gramm has also decided to name a vice chairman for each of his subcommittees.

These vice chairmen will be responsible for conducting oversight and investigation of government agencies, programs and laws within their jurisdiction.

Handling this task on the securities subcommittee will be baseball Hall of Famer and newly-minted legislator Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.).

This might spell some trouble for the SEC if Bunning decides to replicate his on-the-mound flamethrowing in the arena of legislative oversight.

In the House of Representatives, the top Democratic seat on the House Commerce Committee's finance and hazardous-materials subcommittee, which became vacant with the retirement of Rep. Thomas Manton (D- N.Y.), is now occupied by Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.).

"During my tenure, I will diligently represent the interests of the great state of New York as well as matters in the interest of our nation," Towns has said.