Results Put Focus On Lame Duck Session
The 2012 elections came and went, but the Republican revolution never showed.
Democrat Barack Obama will return to the White House for four more years, and the Democrats not only retained control of the Senate, they picked up another seat.
As of press time, there were still eight undecided races in the House of Representatives, and although Republicans are in no danger of losing control of the lower chamber, they will likely lose a few seats there.
What does this mean for credit unions? The so-called status quo election results and lack of shift in party power will probably spur a robust lame duck session as congressional Republicans accept two more years of Democratic dominance. Industry trade associations and lobbyists agree that credit union issues like member business lending and redundant ATM disclosure requirements could gain some traction.
Consultant and lobbyist Dan Mica said he thinks S. 2231, which would raise the member business lending cap to 27.5% of assets, has a good chance of advancing through the Senate during the session, most likely attached to another piece of legislation. Americans on both sides of the political fence are tired of congressional obstructionist strategies, and former congressman Mica said elected officials are too.
“I think there are a number of vehicles it could be attached to,” he said of the MBL bill. “The word I’ve heard over the last week from representatives of both parties is that it’s better to get the most contentious issues out of the way in a lame duck, rather than hold it over your head for another two years.”
Mica said senators who hesitated to commit to member business lending for fear of alienating banker support during an election may make peace with credit unions. And, Democrats may use credit unions to make a statement against Republicans, who received overwhelming campaign support from the banking lobby, particularly at the presidential level.
The economy might also get a boost from election results, as Congress tackles the federal budget and fiscal cliff issues.
“I think we’re one budget deal away from a thriving economy,” Mica said. And, he added, credit unions are well-positioned to benefit from a robust economy, flush with new members, liquidity and hopefully, new legislation that will allow them to grow member business loans.
CUNA is already making moves in anticipation of a productive lame duck session, planning a hike the hill event during the last week of November that CUNA expects will draw 500 warm bodies to Capitol Hill to stump on behalf of member business lending.
Senior Vice President of Political Affairs Richard Gose said CUNA has received RSVPs from credit unions and small business owners in nearly 30 states. About one-quarter of those expected are business owners, Gose said, representing coalition partners in the business sector that support the MBL cap increase.
“This issue is about jobs and small business and providing them with the capital they need to grow and thrive,” Gose said. “The bankers want to make it about credit unions versus banks, which it isn’t.”
After racking up nearly perfect records of throwing campaign support behind Tuesday’s winners, both CUNA and NAFCU will have some grateful ears on Capitol Hill willing to listen to the pitches.
Katie Marisic, NAFCU director of political affairs, said as of Nov. 7 with some races still pending, the trade was victorious in 94% of its races. And, the money went to the right places, with 97% of the money NAFCU spent on congressional races going to victors, she said.
“We supported over 100 winning campaigns in 2012,” she added.
CUNA had similar results, according to Vice President of Political Affairs Trey Hawkins. In the Senate, CUNA supported 27 races, winning 26. In the House, the CUNA PAC was involved in 361 races and won 336, with 12 races still too close to call. That means only 15 losses out of 376 races, for a 96% winning record.
Additionally, CUNA was victorious in 60% of the races in which it supported a challenger, rather than an incumbent. Hawkins called support of challengers a “very high risk with very high reward.”
Winning CUNA challengers in the House included two New Yorkers, former Erie County executive Chris Collins, a Republican, and a Democrat, former U.S. Rep. Dan Maffei. Democrat Cheri Bustos was also a winning challenger in Iowa.
Hawkins called Bustos a strong friend to credit unions and said her opponent, one-term Congressman Bobby Schilling, was not supportive of the industry. “We are very pleased Bustos will be coming to Congress,” Hawkins said.
Redistricting resulted in 59 races in which there were no incumbents. CUNA was active in 50 of those races and won 44.
“We try to take advantage of opportunities in which there is no incumbent,” Hawkins said, “and identify which candidates are friends of credit unions, and help them.”
CUNA’s CULAC PAC is one of the larger campaign donors in Washington, yet it pales in comparison to the money this year’s super PACs donated. However, Hawkins said CUNA’s strategy of involving not just its own national political team but also state leagues and member credit unions sets it apart in competitive races.
“The super PACs can throw millions of dollars at races, but they don’t often have a ground game that can compete with ours,” he said,