LOAN DANGER

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Something you might have missed in all the excitement over missed votes and Yiddish expletives: If challenger Chuck Schumer beats Senator Al D’Amato, the Senate won’t only relinquish one of its most inspired mimics. It will lose the chair of the banking committee.

If the Republicans keep control of the Senate, D’Amato’s replacement would almost assuredly be Senator Phil Gramm, who took credit this fall for killing the “Financial Modernization” bill, which would have eased mergers between banks and other financial institutions. Community lending advocates rejoiced at the bill’s death–they said it was much too rough on the Community Reinvestment Act, which requires banks to lend money in low- and moderate- income neighborhoods. But deficit hawk Gramm iced the bill because it didn’t do enough to free banks from the CRA.

“Phil Gramm is not just unrelentingly anti-CRA, he’s also cool to any housing or community development programs,” said Allen Fishbein of the Center for Community Change in Washington, D.C.

If D’Amato is re-elected, the bill will most likely be born again. But if Gramm replaces him, Washington insiders predict that a new version of the bill could aim to end CRA.