Federal Legislative Week in Review

Interchange. It was another busy week in Washington, D.C. We continue to see action and movement on two of our key issues at the federal level. Grassroots advocacy on the interchange issue is strong with over 50,000 contacts made nationally to senators and representatives. Thank you for your efforts.

We cannot slow down, however, as the retail industry is pulling out all the stops in their efforts to see the Durbin amendment implemented ‘as is’ and on time. Last week, we learned that the merchants were reaching out to Governors and asking them to sign a letter to Congress in support of the Durbin amendment. As a result, we sent letters to both Governor Chris Gregoire and Governor John Kitzhaber explaining how the Durbin amendment would affect credit unions and asking for their support.

We were thrilled to report last week of Congressman Rick Larsen’s (D-WA) announcement that he will co-sponsor H.R. 1081, the House bill to delay the effective date of any final debit interchange rule for one year while a study is done to determine the effects of the rule on consumers, card issuers, merchants, and financial institutions. Unfortunately, we also learned last week that Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA) signed a pro-merchant interchange letter to the Fed.

Due to an increase in momentum on the interchange issue, in particular in the U.S. Senate, many credit unions plan to take this issue to their members. CUNA has launched a “Call on Congress” campaign aimed at engaging credit union members in an effort to keep constant contact with Congress—both in Washington DC and here at home. There are two components to this campaign:

     1. A toll-free number that will patch callers through to their Senators and /or Representative; and

     2. A district letter-writing campaign.

NWCUA has materials available at http://nwcua.org/index.php/Advocacy/LegislativeAffairs/ for your use, to create a “Call on Congress” campaign for your credit union if you are interested. You will find customizable posters, “Save Our Free Checking” cards, sample letters, talking points, etc.

Member Business Lending Cap. We expect to see a bill introduced on the House side to mirror the Senate legislation and increase the MBL cap to 27.5 percent of total assets. Representative Ed Royce (R-CA) and Representative Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) are the lead sponsors of the House bill. Keep your eyes out for a Call to Action on this legislation which will target our House members.

In other news on Capitol Hill. The House and the Senate are back in Washington DC for another week, beginning today. The House will consider a bill under suspension of the rules. The remainder of the week, the House is expected to consider H.R. 910, the Energy Tax Prevention Act and H.J.Res. 37, a resolution disapproving of the FCC rules related to net neutrality. The Senate comes back today to consider a judicial nomination. The remainder of the week, the Senate is expected to complete consideration of the small business bill that has been pending for two weeks. As you know, the government is operating under a continuing resolution that expires on Friday; negotiations on a long-term continuing resolution continue and this could be the subject of floor action later in the week.

There are several committee meetings relevant to credit unions this week. On Tuesday, the Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee will markup several bills related to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac: H.R.31, the “Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Accountability and Transparency for Taxpayers Act”; H.R.1221, the “Equity in Government Compensation Act of 2011”; H.R.1222, the “GSE Subsidy Elimination Act of 2011”; H.R.1223, the “GSE Credit Risk Equitable Treatment Act of 2011”; H.R.1224, the “Portfolio Risk Reduction Act of 2011”; H.R.1225, the “GSE Debt Issuance Approval Act of 2011”; H.R.1226, the “GSE Mission Improvement Act of 2011”; and H.R.1227, the “GSE Risk and Activities Limitation Act of 2011.”

On Wednesday, April 6, the Securities, Insurance and Investment Subcommittee of the Senate Banking Committee will hold a hearing on the “Role of the Accounting Profession in Preventing Another Financial Crisis.” Witnesses from the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, the Financial Accounting Standards Board, the Securities and Exchange Commission are be among those expected to testify.

Also on Wednesday, the Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “Legislative Proposals to Improve the Structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).” Rod Staatz, President & CEO of SECU of Maryland and a member of CUNA’s Board of Directors, will testify on behalf of CUNA. This hearing will focus on two bills recently introduced in the House of Representatives:

  • H.R. 1121, the Responsible Consumer Financial Protection Regulations Act, which would replace the Director of the CFPB with a five person Consumer Financial Protection Commission; and
  • H.R. 1351, the Consumer Financial Protection Safety and Soundness Improvement Act, which would modify the voting procedure of the Financial Stability Oversight Council when voting to stay or set aside rules finalized by the CFPB by reducing the threshold for the Council to take action from two-thirds of the Council to a simple majority. The legislation would also direct the Council to take action to stay or set aside CFPB rules that are inconsistent with the safe and sound operation of U.S. financial institutions.

Posted in Advocacy News, Federal.