Elections Shook the CU Landscape on Capitol Hill
Credit unions lost one of their strongest congressional allies this year and will have to deal with more Republicans in both the House and Senate next year.
Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.), who has championed many credit union causes, went down to defeat after a 26-year career. Kanjorski's defeat and that of scores of his fellow House Democrats caused partisan control of that chamber to shift after only four years of Democratic control.
The House currently has 255 Democrats, 178 Republicans and two vacancies. In the new Congress, there will be 242 Republicans and 193 Democrats.
The Senate currently has 58 Democrats and 42 Republicans, and next year it will have 53 Democrats and 47 Republicans.
Kanjorski, the No. 2 Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, was the lead sponsor of legislation to raise the cap on member business loans and has been the main backer of other bills that credit unions have supported. In 2008, the House passed Kanjorski's legislation to allow federal credit unions to apply to serve underserved areas outside their field of service. Loans in those communities and to religious nonprofit institutions would not count against the MBL cap. The Senate never took up the bill.
He also played a key role in congressional passage of the most important credit union legislation of the past generation, the Credit Union Membership Access Act (H.R. 1151), in 1998. It reversed a U.S. Supreme Court decision and gave credit unions broad authority to expand their memberships.
With Kanjorski's departure, credit unions will have to rely on other allies, including Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), a senior member of the Financial Services Committee, who made an unsuccessful run for the chairmanship.
Incoming Financial Services Committee Chairman Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) has praised the work of credit unions and expressed support for raising the cap on member business loans. It remains to be seen if he can translate those words into deeds. He has promised to make reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac top priorities as well as closely monitoring the implementation of the financial overhaul bill passed this year.
Rep. Shelly Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who has received support from CUNA and NAFCU in her past campaigns, will take over the subcommittee that oversees credit unions and other financial institutions.
The political action committees of both CUNA and NAFCU have contributed to the campaigns or leadership PACs of all the key members of the Financial Services Committee and of the Democratic and Republican leadership.
Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.), who was mentioned as a possible president of CUNA, is in line to become chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Oversight. That panel has jurisdiction over the Central Liquidity Facility and other funding mechanisms that are important to credit unions.
In the other chamber, the retirement of Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) clears the way for Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) to take over the Senate Banking Committee.
Johnson, a senator since 1997, has been supportive of credit unions and is especially concerned about the role of depository institutions in serving the rural areas that dominate his state.
Johnson has also been favorably disposed to banks. South Dakota has no usury laws and many large banks have moved parts of some operations to the state. Citibank's credit card operations are based in Sioux Falls and employ 3,200 people.
Johnson and NCUA Chairman Debbie Matz have been friends for many years. Matz's husband, Marshall, developed strong ties to the state when he did a public service law internship there. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Marshall Matz has contributed $3,250 to Johnson since 1995. Debbie Matz contributed $1,750 between 1999 and 2002.