Awaiting Action on TARP, Cram-Downs
That's what credit unions are contending with when it comes to their top priorities in the new Congress and administration.
Credit unions are trying to get access to funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, and while the House passed a measure that included such a provision, the Senate was not expected to take up the measure.
Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.) introduced an amendment that was included in a bill containing guidance on how the administration should spend the TARP funds. The amendment would allow credit unions to include government assistance in the calculation of their net worth, something they currently can't do. That would enable them to apply for TARP funds that become available.
CUNA Vice President of Legislative Affairs Ryan Donovan said they are looking for other measures to which they can attach those provisions. Also, it is possible that the Treasury Department could change its interpretation of the law and make credit unions eligible for TARP by keeping to Congress' intent of having the government buy troubled mortgages.
Another big question mark surrounds the economic stimulus bill. CUNA and NAFCU are interested in it on two fronts. They would like provisions included to raise or eliminate the cap on member business loans and include risk-based capital reform. They also want to prevent the inclusion of a measure allowingjudges to rewrite the terms of mortgages during bankruptcy proceedings.
The draft versions of the measure in the House and Senate don't include the MBL or risk-based capital provisions, but NAFCU's Director of Legislative Affairs Brad Thaler said they continue to work with their friends on the Hill to get this changed.
House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said he doubts either of those two provisions will pass this year, because they are too controversial. So far, the drafts of the stimulus measure include $100 billion for school districts to make up for cuts in state funding, $87 billion to help states pay for certain health programs and $39 billion for health insurance for the unemployed. It also includes a $500-per-worker, $1,000-per-couple tax credit.
The Senate version of the stimulus includes the so-called "cram-down provision," allowing judges rewrite mortgage terms for those in Chapter 13 bankruptcy proceedings if the borrower contacted the lender about a reduction before filing. CUNA and NAFCU are pushing to limit the provision to subprime mortgages, but lobbyists for those groups said the sentiment on Capitol Hill seems to be to include all mortgages.
The House bill does not contain this provision, but there is support for it from important lawmakers, including House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.), and could be added on later in the legislative process.