Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) will retire at the end of his term and not seek re-election in 2014.
That news is of particular importance to credit unions due to Baucus’ position as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, where he leads tax reform in the Capitol’s upper chamber that could affect the credit union tax exemption.
John McKechnie, partner at the Washington-based lobby and strategy firm Total Spectrum, said Capitol Hill is already rife with speculation about the impact the announcement could have on tax reform.
“While it’s too soon to be sure, those who want tax reform are saying the Baucus departure liberates him politically to go all out for reform, and those who don’t are saying his lame duck status makes him less effective in advancing an agenda,” McKechnie said, adding, “We’ll see.”
Katie Marisic, NAFCU's director of political affairs, said she doesn’t think Baucus’ impending departure will change the Senate’s current focus on tax reform.
“Both Baucus and (House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave) Camp have made it clear that tax reform is a priority,” she said. “We’ve always known it would be a big focus this year.”
CUNA Senior Vice President of Legislative Affairs Ryan Donovan said Baucus’ retirement will have an impact on tax reform but will probably not be a determinative factor.
“The needle might have moved slightly in the direction of tax reform being more likely to occur, but it’s not clear that it moved significantly,” Donovan said. “The biggest change to the tax reform dynamics is that the chairman may find he has a bit more flexibility to work with his colleagues in the Senate to put together a bill, but the partisan divide on these issues has not been bridged.”
Tracie Kenyon, president/CEO of the Montana Credit Union Network, said the Treasure State’s credit unions will miss Baucus in the U.S. Senate.
“Senator Baucus is a good friend of credit unions; he recently reaffirmed his support of credit unions' tax status,” she said.
NAFCU’s Marisic agreed that Baucus has been supportive of credit unions, noting he voted against the Durbin interchange amendment.
CUNA Executive Vice President of Government Affairs John Magill said he expects to continue working with the senator’s team over the remainder of his term on key issues affecting credit unions, particularly with regard to the future of the tax code.