Two Senate Backers of CURIA Seem to Be Treading Down a Lonely Path
WASHINGTON -- Because of his independent streak on foreign policy issues, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) often finds himself at odds with those on both sides of aisle.
He's also a bit lonely in the credit union efforts right now, too. He and the Senate's other independent, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, are thus far the only two people who have signed on as sponsors or co-sponsors of the Credit Union Regulatory Improvements Act (S. 2957) in the Senate.
Lieberman, CURIA's main sponsor, recently wrote CUNA President/CEO Dan Mica a letter thanking him for the grassroots efforts in support of the measure.
"There is no doubt with the depth and breadth of support from the membership of the Credit Union National Association and their account holders, we have a real opportunity to approve legislation which will positively affect the micro-level economic conditions in communities across America," he wrote.
Lieberman's spokesman said they are working on getting other sponsors but declined to say what kind of timetable there is for gaining additional sponsors or for any hearings.
While Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) has been a big backer of the measure in the past--she was the one who announced the bill on the Senate side at CUNA's Governmental Affairs Conference in March--she has not signed on at this time. Her spokeswoman said there "has been talk'' about her co-sponsoring it, but there has been no final decision.
Landrieu, one of the few Democratic incumbents thought to be vulnerable in this November's election, has received financial support from the political action committees of both CUNA and NAFCU. She will face Louisiana Treasurer John Kennedy, a Republican.
CURIA, which has 148 co-sponsors in the House (H.R. 1537) in addition to primary sponsor Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.), includes risk-based capital reform and raises the member business lending cap from 12.25% to 20%.
Lobbyists for both CUNA and NAFCU said they are working behind the scenes to get additional support for CURIA and the less comprehensive regulatory relief measure, the Credit Union Regulatory Relief Act. Also, several state credit union leagues have hiked the Hill recently, during which credit union executives stressed the importance of regulatory relief during meetings with members of Congress and their staffs.
CURRA (H.R. 5519) was supposed to be voted on in the House in April but was pulled after objections from banking lobbyists. The objections centered on their belief that the measure gave credit unions permission to provide more services that would provide competition to banks. It has 18 co-sponsors.
NAFCU Director of Legislative Affairs Brad Thaler said while there is an interest in working out differences, credit unions won't compromise too much.
"Bankers are objecting to everything credit unions are getting and we're not going to give in to all their objections and give everything away."
CUNA Vice President of Legislative Affairs Ryan Donovan said his group is optimistic that an agreement can be reached and members are using meetings with lawmakers during the Memorial Day recess to encourage additional support for the measure.
CURRA includes a provision to let a credit union include an underserved area into its field of membership served by a credit union and would allow credit unions to offer payday lending services to anyone in their fields of membership and encouraging small business development in rural communities. It also would exclude loans to non-profit religious institutions from credit union business lending caps.