The Bush administration is reaching out to congressional Democrats on the S&L crisis after creating a furor over a plan to charge depositors a fee for federal insurance of their savings and checking accounts.

Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady, who floated the idea of a depositors' fee last week in meetings with congressional Republicans, met privately Monday with House Speaker Jim Wright, D-Texas, and other key Democrats to stress other options being considered.Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, D-Ill., chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, quoted Brady as saying during the meeting in Wright's office that President Bush has made no decisions on any of the alternatives.

"Everybody's looking for the path of least resistance," Rostenkowski said. "There's no solution that's not going to be painful."

Industry and government experts say the cost of closing insolvent thrift institutions while protecting their depositors against losses would range from $90 billion to more than $110 billion over the next 10 years.

The alternatives include issuing $25 billion to $60 billion in bonds, some of it backed directly by the government or through raising the premiums that banks and savings and loan associations now pay for federal insurance.

"The healthy institutions won't be for increased premiums," Rostenkowski said.

But he added that the idea of charging depositors about $2.50 for each $1,000 in their checking or savings accounts in federally insured institutions "is as flat as a pancake."