The scheduled Senate vote this afternoon to consider legislation that would extend the Transaction Account Guarantee program beyond Dec. 31 isn’t as simple as another legislative victory for banks and a defeat for credit unions.
One important behind-the-scenes force moving the bill forward is that it is being used as a prop in partisan debate over filibuster reform, said CUNA’s Senior Vice President of Legislative Affairs Ryan Donovan.
“The motion to proceed is more of a statement for support of filibuster reform than for TAG,” Donovan said. “(The Democrats’) filibuster reform proposal would eliminate the ability to filibuster a motion to proceed, so that’s why they’ll proceed to a vote.”
John Magill, CUNA executive vice president of governmental affairs, added that every vote in the lame duck session will take on multiple meanings, weighed down by procedural and political implications.
“This is not simply an up or down vote on TAG,” Magill said.
The Senate is expected to debate filibuster reform in January, potentially ending a popular minority party tactic of obstructing bills and presidential nominations by allowing one individual to utilize the parliamentary procedure to delay or kill a vote.
The filibuster has become a highly partisan issue, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) famously filibustered against his own debt-ceiling proposal Dec. 6 after Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) called his bluff by advancing the bill.
Despite “mixed signals” from the Senate regarding support to proceed to debate on S. 3637, CUNA officials said they expect it will receive the required 60 votes today. However, that doesn’t mean the bill is a slam dunk to pass the Senate, Donovan said.
One deciding factor will be whether or not Reid will allow amendments to be added to the bill, he said.
“What we’ve seen frequently over the last two years is when the amendment tree is filled and amendments aren’t allowed, those bills generally go down because those who can’t have their amendments added vote against it,” Donovan said. “So, if past performance is a predictor, we think there’s a valid argument there might be some differences in those two votes.”
Plan A for CUNA today is to convince enough senators to vote against moving the TAG bill forward; however, should the bill move into debate, the trade association will shift into Plan B, pushing for consideration of an amendment by Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) that would add credit union member business lending legislation onto the bill.
Should that fail, Plan C would see credit unions pressing senators to vote down the bill’s passage.
CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney stressed conditions in the Senate present a real opportunity to add MBL legislation onto the TAG bill. Credit unions aren’t the only group that will be pushing Reid to allow amendments on S. 3637, CUNA officials say.
“We’re not sure it will happen, but it’s important to understand we’re not out of this yet,” Cheney said. “We’re not admitting defeat yet. If we quit we lose, but if we keep working, we’ll have a chance.”