Approximately 500 credit union executives, business owners and members of Congress packed the Kennedy Caucus Room at the Senate Russell Office Building on Tuesday night to rally support for S. 2231, which would increase the member business lending cap to 27.5% of assets.
The reception kicked off CUNA’s Hike the Hill event in support of the bill that continued through Wednesday.
Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), primary sponsor of the bill, was cheered as his spoke in favor of the legislation and decried heavy banker lobbying on Capitol Hill in opposition.
Banker arguments opposing the bill are “flat-out wrong,” he said and added the MBL cap is a drain on the economy because “we know small businesses aren’t able to generate the loans they need from the banking sector.”
Other members of Congress who took to the podium included Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), who is the primary co-sponsor of H.R. 1418, the House companion bill for member business lending, as well as Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-Va.), Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio).
A surprise guest at the event was Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) was named chairman of the committee Wednesday, succeeding Bachus in 2013.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), center, discusses Capitol Hill strategy with CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney and others.
Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), primary sponsor of S. 2231, addresses the crowd. Udall said passing the bill that would raise the member business lending cap to 27.5% of assets is his number one priority and called banker arguments opposing the bill “flat-out wrong.”
Credit Union Times reporter Heather Anderson interviews Roger Moore, a small business owner from Knoxville, Tenn. Moore, who owns a commercial real estate management and sales firm, called himself “the poster child for this bill.” After two banks asked him to move his business elsewhere, despite no late or missed payments, he joined the $1.4 billion ORNLFCU of Oak Ridge, Tenn., where he was able to secure an SBA loan.
Clay Kearley, vice president of member business services at the $1.4 billion ORNLFCU of Oak Ridge, Tenn., said his credit union is $30 million shy of its MBL cap. Kearley said his push for a legislation cap increase isn’t about fighting for today’s loans, it’s a fight for the future prosperity of the country.
Philip Maguire, owner of the Maguire family of auto dealerships in Ithaca, N.Y., said bankers were “running away” from auto dealers when the recession hit, particularly as auto makers asked for bailouts from the federal government. Thanks to credit from the $830 million CFCU Community CU of Ithaca, and an indirect lending relationship with the credit union, Maguire said he has grown his dealerships from 30 employees in 2008 to more than 400 today.
Phil Dangel, owner of The Shrimp Dock in Knoxville, Tenn., said his fresh fish market was denied loans by eight banks before he found the $830 million ORNLFCU of Knoxville. The credit union gave him a loan to add a third location and buy out his partner. Dangel said his fish markets, which also serve overstuffed shrimp sandwiches to customers during the day, “isn’t breaking any records, but business is good and we’re growing.”
CUNA’s Ryan Donovan, left, and a credit union executive from Oregon, center, visit with Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.). Bonamici, who won a special election in January 2012 to take her House seat, received campaign assistance from credit unions. Her first act in Congress was to sign on as a co-sponsor of H.R. 1418, the House bill that would raise the member business lending cap.
Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), the primary sponsor of H.R. 1418, a bill that would raise the member business lending cap, said the issue isn’t about banks versus credit unions or Democrats versus Republicans. Rather, the bill is an opportunity to boost the economy without having to borrow money from overseas, he said.
Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-Va.) right, speaks with Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), left. Connolly said he is the only co-sponsor of member business lending legislation from the Commonwealth of Virginia, and joked that he’s lonely and hopes credit unions can convince the state’s other 10 congressmen to join him as co-sponsors.
Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) thanked credit unions for their help in his successful re-election bid in 2012. He said he likes credit unions because they don’t lobby for programs that require government subsidy. “All you want us to do is get out of the way,” he said, referring to regulations limiting member business lending and prohibiting supplemental capital. Sherman is the primary sponsor of legislation that would allow credit unions to invest in supplemental capital, but that bill has failed to advance in the House.
Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) described himself as a “very satisfied credit union member” and lauded credit unions for the way they build communities. “You have a great track record in business lending, and with this bill you have an opportunity to build upon that,” he said.