8 Members of Congress Credit Unions Need to Know
When credit union leaders visit Washington this year and speak with their district’s members of Congress, they should also be aware of key committee leaders that hold influence over other members.
These powerful leaders oversee financial institutions and the NCUA, originate tax reform and wield considerable influence over legislation in those areas.
The House Financial Services Committee oversees the economy, banking system, housing, monetary policy, and provides oversight for the NCUA, FDIC, Treasury, FHFA, HUD and other federal agencies.
Its counterpart in the Senate, the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, has jurisdiction over banking, insurance, financial markets, securities, housing, urban development and mass transit, international trade and finance and economic policy.
All tax reform must begin in the House Ways and Means Committee, which makes the group particularly important to credit unions this year. The Senate Finance committee oversees changes to the tax code in the upper chamber.
The following are eight congressional committee leaders every credit union executive should know.
House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas)
Hensarling took over as leader of this important committee Jan. 3, after Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) had to vacate the position due to term limits. Hensarling is a loud critic of the Dodd-Frank Act and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and could bring some regulatory relief to credit unions. He drew applause at NAFCU’s Congressional Caucus in 2012 when he called Dodd-Frank a “legislative drive-by shooting”; however, he also introduced a bill last year that would wind-down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which NAFCU opposed.
House Financial Services Committee Ranking Member Maxine Waters (D-Calif.)
Waters, who replaces retiring Ranking Member Barney Frank (D-Mass.), has long been a credit union supporter and speaks highly of relationships with credit unions in her district, particularly Kinecta FCU in Manhattan Beach. Waters represents California’s 43rd district, which is centered in South Los Angeles and is home to the largest African American community in the Western U.S. Waters’ district is also largely Hispanic and she is known for championing consumer protection and minority rights. She is supportive of credit unions, but may not bring much regulatory relief.
Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-S.D.)
The Banking Committee website describes Johnson as a “community banking advocate”, and quoted him as saying that “community banks are the lifeline of many small, rural communities.” Johnson cautioned against S. 2231, the 112th Congress’ member business lending bill, on the Senate floor in March. However, credit union trade organizations haven’t called Johnson an enemy of credit unions, saying he is open to listening to credit union issues, too. In fact, Johnson was a key figure in passing a bill that eliminated an ATM placard disclosure requirement that had spurred frivolous class action lawsuits against ATM owners.
Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-Idaho)
Crapo took over the Ranking Member position from Alabama’s Richard Shelby, who had to step down due to term limits. Crapo, who supported the Durbin Amendment to the 2010 financial overhaul legislation, also supported 2011’s Tester-Corker Amendment, which would have delayed the Federal Reserve’s regulation of debit fees. Crapo also sponsored, along with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), an amendment in 2009 that increased the NCUA’s borrowing authority from $100 million to $6 billion, to fund corporate stabilization efforts.
House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.)
Dave Adams, president/CEO of the Michigan Credit Union League, said although Camp is aggressively lobbied by bankers, he’s also said he’s unwilling to help banks at the expense of credit unions. He was a CURIA co-sponsor and expressed support for raising the member business lending cap. Camp also penned a letter in support of the credit union tax exemption in 2004. Adams said Camp has a good relationship with credit unions in his district, and has been known to call credit union officials to get their views on issues.
House Ways & Means Committee Ranking Member Sandy Levin (D-Mich.)
Adams said Levin’s philosophical position of supporting organizations that serve urban, underserved neighborhoods in his districts makes him a natural credit union supporter. Levin’s brother, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, and together, the two have considerable influence with the Obama Administration and Democratic Party, Adams said. NAFCU’s Brad Thaler said both Camp and Levin recognize the role credit unions played in supporting Michigan’s auto industry by making auto loans in tough times.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.)
Speaking of tax reform in 2012, Baucus said, “Everything is on the table.” However, Baucus is a credit union supporter and spoke at CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference a few years ago, said Senior Vice President of Legislative Affairs Ryan Donovan. NAFCU Vice President of Legislative Affairs Brad Thaler said Baucus has previously expressed support for credit unions and in particular, the tax exemption.
Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)
Although Hatch represents the state of Utah, where nasty bank vs. credit union battles have been fought, he is not decidedly pro-banker. Thaler said Hatch has a good relationship with NAFCU, and staffers have said they support the credit union tax exemption. Donovan said the Utah League has a good relationship with Hatch, as does CUNA in Washington.