NCUA Board Member Gigi Hyland doesn’t have to order a moving van any time soon. Even though her term on the board expired on Aug. 2, President Obama hasn’t nominated anyone to succeed her.
Hyland, a Democrat appointed by President Bush, has been a board member since November 2005 and can stay at the agency until her successor is sworn in. The Obama administration hasn’t indicated any timetable for naming a new member to a six-year term.
Nominees to the NCUA board must be confirmed by a majority vote of the Senate. Before the full chamber votes on it, there is a hearing and vote by the Senate Banking Committee.
Until NCUA Chairman Debbie Matz took office in 2009, Hyland was the only member who had had direct credit union experience. Hyland had been senior vice president and general counsel of Empire Corporate FCU and before that was executive director of the Association of Corporate Credit Unions.
Former NCUA Board Member Geoff Bacino declined to say whether he is interested in or has been contacted by the Obama administration about the job, but he did say that he hasn’t filled out the paperwork that is required before the White House sends a nomination to Capitol Hill. Bacino, who has gone through the confirmation process for the NCUA board and the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, said nominations don’t always follow a predictable pattern.
He also said that whoever is nominated would likely be sent to the Senate as part of package of nominees to financial regulatory agencies.
John McKechnie, who helped guide the nomination of several NCUA board members during his tenure as the director of the agency’s Office of Public and Congressional Affairs, said once a nomination is made and there is an agreement between Republicans and Democrats, the process can proceed quickly. Matz was nominated to the chairmanship on May 21, 2009 and confirmed by the Senate on Aug. 7. It’s not certain whether the new board member will come from the credit union movement.
According to the Credit Union Membership Access Act, “Not more than one member of the board may be appointed to the board from among individuals who, at the time of the appointment, are or have recently been involved with any insured credit union as a committee member, director, officer, employee or other institution-affiliated party.” Matz served as executive vice president and acting CEO of Andrews FCU, but she left the credit union 14 months before Obama nominated her to be chairman.
Several attorneys familiar with credit unions said that "recently” is often interpreted to mean within the last year, and therefore Obama could name someone currently working at a credit union. Obama has had a mixed record in getting his nominees for key financial regulatory posts confirmed.
Earlier this month, the Senate Banking Committee approved the nomination of Martin Gruenberg to chair the FDIC and Thomas Curry to head the Office of the Controller of the Currency. The nominations now go to the Senate for a vote. There was no partisan bickering about the nominees.
However, Senate Republicans have vowed to block the confirmation of Richard Cordray to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau because they want to force Obama to make changes in the bureau’s structure.
Earlier this year, Nobel Laureate Peter Diamond withdrew his nomination for a seat on the Federal Reserve after Republicans said he didn’t have the suitable experience for the position and was too liberal. Although Senate Republicans never said it, their opposition to Diamond’s appointment mirrors a similar move by Senate Democrats toward the end of President Bush’s term.
Although Democrats have a majority in the Senate, that chamber’s rules allow the minority to block nominees by filibustering them. A filibuster can only be broken by a vote of 60 of the chamber’s 100 members.
If Obama waits too long, Republicans could decide not to allow any nominees to go through, especially if they think they have a good opportunity to win the presidency next year.
By not confirming a successor to Hyland, they would give the new president the chance to do so and therefore the NCUA board would have a two to one GOP majority. NCUA Board Member Michael Fryzel, a Republican who was appointed by President Bush, has been on the board since July 2008 and his term is set to expire on Aug. 2, 2013.
But party affiliations don’t always predict an NCUA board member’s voting behavior. Hyland takes a more skeptical view of certain regulations than does fellow Democrat Matz, and on divided votes, Hyland is often on the opposite side of issues as Matz.