There's nothing Congress guards more jealously than its power of the purse. And nothing it likes less than having to vote every few months to pour billions of dollars into the savings-and-loan cleanup. So distasteful, in fact, has the thrift bailout become that lawmakers are thinking of giving the Treasury Dept. an 18-month blank check. Congress has approved $78 billion for the cleanup this fiscal year, and Treasury Secretary Nicholas F. Brady is expected to seek $100 billion for 1992. Lawmakers would prefer not to vote for more S&L spending until after the 1992 elections.

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