The NCUA is a low-profile agency, but that may not prevent the nomination of Carla M. Decker from getting caught up in pre-election political wrangling.
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Decker, the president/CEO of District Government Employees FCU, was nominated on Oct. 20 by President Obama to serve on the NCUA board. She has to be confirmed for the post by the Senate, and while that chamber hasn’t ever rejected an NCUA nominee, that doesn’t guarantee that Decker’s path to the agency will be without bumps.
Like Noah, the Senate Banking Committee often considers nominees in pairs. That’s why when Decker has a confirmation hearing she probably won’t be flying solo.
On the same day that the Obama administration announced her nomination, it also announced that it had picked Thomas Hoenig to become vice chairman of the FDIC. The Senate Banking Committee hasn’t announced a hearing date yet for either nominee.
Hoenig, a Republican who recently stepped down as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, was nominated by Obama at the recommendation of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), to fill a Republican seat on the board that oversees the FDIC.
Though Democrats control the 100-member Senate, the chamber’s rules allow the minority party to erect procedural roadblocks so that any measure or nomination requires 60 votes to pass. Even if Republicans don’t object to Decker based on her qualifications, delays are possible. If the GOP thinks it has a good chance of winning the White House next year, it may push to derail the confirmation of Decker and other nominees so the vacancies will be filled by the new president.
Decker’s confirmation wouldn’t change the partisan makeup of the NCUA Board because she would succeed another Democrat, Gigi Hyland, who was nominated by President Bush. However, if Decker isn’t confirmed and Hyland stays on until after the next presidential election and a Republican wins the White House, the new president could nominate a successor. Under that scenario, the NCUA board would then have a GOP majority.
John McKechnie, a lobbyist who once held senior positions at the NCUA and CUNA, said while the confirmation process is steeped in politics, it is too early to tell whether there will be roadblocks placed in Decker’s way.
Both McKechnie and former NCUA Board Member Geoff Bacino said that if confirmed, Decker’s experience as a CEO will enable her to vote on regulatory policy with knowledge of how it impacts credit unions.
“She understands the operational challenges facing credit unions, especially small ones, and that will bring an important perspective to the regulatory process,” McKechnie said.
But American Bankers Association Senior Economist Keith Leggett noted that Decker’s lack of regulatory experience is a notable contrast to FDIC nominee Hoenig, who has spent his entire career as a banking regulator.
Decker’s 10,800-member $45 million CU, which is based in Washington, D.C., reported a profit of $31,167 in the first six months of 2011. That follows losses of $119,797 for 2007, $369,282 for 2008, $483,946 for 2009, and $322,790 for 2010.
Bacino said the fact that Decker’s credit union has had financial problems won’t necessarily hurt her prospects for confirmation given the state of the economy and the fact that the information was well known to the White House when it vetted her.
“The only things that usually trip people up are pieces of information coming out that weren’t known when the administration screens potential nominees,” he said. “It’s hard to find someone who has run a credit union that hasn’t had some problems during the past few years.”
Decker has been in her current job since 2000 and before that was president/CEO of PAHO/WHO FCU. She also had been a branch manager at Transportation FCU.