GOP Takes Senate Majority as Key CU Supporters Lose
Republicans won enough Senate seats in the mid-term elections to win a slim majority of 52 out of 100, as credit unions lost two strong Democratic supporters.
The GOP also picked up seats in the House of Representatives. As a result, the Republicans will have a majority in both the House and Senate in the next Congress.
Republican Rep. Cory Gardner defeated Sen. Mark Udall in Colorado. CUNA and NAFCU supported Udall's re-election campaign and praised the senator's dedication to lifting the member business lending cap. Udall, pictured above speaking at CUNA's Governmental Affairs Conference, had sponsored the MBL bill in the Senate.
CUNA spent $400,000 on direct mail to credit union members urging them to support Udall. NAFCU said it donated $7,500 to Udall through its PAC while CUNA donated $10,000.
Alaska Sen. Mark Begich, the only senator who publicly supported the credit union tax exemption during discussions on tax reform in 2013, was narrowly defeated in his re-election bid. By press time Nov. 6, the Democrat had not conceded the race to Republican challenger Dan Sullivan, former Alaska attorney general.
“Begich has sponsored multiple pieces of credit union legislation, including privacy notice requirements, member business lending, supplemental capital, and was also a vocal proponent of our tax exemption,” Katie Marisic, NAFCU’s vice president of political affairs, said.
NAFCU donated $3,000 to Begich's campaign and CUNA contributed $10,000.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who will likely now be named majority leader, was elected to a sixth term after defeating Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D-Ky.).
Both CUNA and NAFCU contributed $10,000 to McConnell's campaign through their PACs. CUNA also supported McConnell's re-election with a $300,000 independent expenditure, which included $274,000 on television advertisements for McConnell and $25,000 in radio ads.
“McConnell has supported credit unions since his election to Congress. He always sees us and listens to our concerns,” Wendell Lyons, president/CEO of the Kentucky Credit Union League and Affiliates, said.
Republican Iowa State Senator Joni Ernst defeated Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley, a member of the House Financial Services Committee, in the Iowa Senate race. The seat was vacated by retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin.
Democrat Gary Peters, also a member of the House Financial Services Committee, won a Senate seat in Michigan. Peters (D-Mich.) and Braley (D-Iowa), both supported by the trades, co-sponsored legislation to raise the MBL cap in the last three Congresses.
Former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds will also be joining the Senate. Rounds took the seat vacated by retiring Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) is in line to become chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. CUNA supported former Gov. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) with a $10,000 contribution to his campaign against Rick Weiland (D-S.D.). NAFCU said it was not involved in the Rounds race.
“The betting is that Senator Shelby will assume the Banking Committee Chair if the Republicans win a majority. Under Republican Caucus rules, the Senator has two years remaining to serve as Chairman, and his colleagues are very supportive of him in that capacity,” John McKechnie, partner at Washington advocacy firm Total Spectrum and former NCUA official, told CU Times.
He added, “Senator Shelby has been a major player on a wide-variety of financial services-related issues for over 30 years, in both the House and Senate, and his experience and track record will be genuine assets to the Committee's deliberations.”
McKechnie also said House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) has the support to retain the job in the next Congress.
Both CUNA and NAFCU contributed to Shelby's re-election campaign in 2010. CULAC contributed the maximum $10,000 to Shelby's re-election committee and $12,000 to his leadership PAC while NAFCU donated $3,500 to his re-election campaign. Since 2010, CUNA said it contributed another $6,000 to Shelby's leadership PAC.
“With respect to leadership of the Senate Banking Committee, we have worked hard to establish working relationships with senior members on both sides of the aisle,” Jillian Pevo, NAFCU director of legislative affairs, said. “Accordingly, we are prepared to work closely with the incoming Chairman and his staff on issues impacting credit unions.”
Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, a member of the Senate Banking Committee who was backed by NAFCU and CUNA, lost her Senate seat in North Carolina to Republican challenger Thom Tillis, speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives.
Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Financial Institutions & Consumer Credit, won the open Senate seat in West Virginia, currently occupied by retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.). Both CUNA and NAFCU donated to Capito's campaign.
The Louisiana Senate race between Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) will go to a runoff since neither candidate received 50% of the vote.
CUNA supported Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in the New Hampshire Senate race, who defeated Republican challenger Scott Brown, the former senator from Massachusetts.
In Arkansas, Democratic incumbent Mark Pryor lost to Republican Rep. Tom Cotton, a member of the House Financial Services Committee. NAFCU backed Cotton's campaign with a $1,000 contribution.
“NAFCU looks forward to working with the members of the 114th Congress on solutions to issues like regulatory relief and date security, that affect credit unions and their members,” Marisic said.
The Virginia Senate race between incumbent Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat and Senate Banking Committee member, and former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie, was a tight one. Warner maintained a slight lead Nov. 5 and Gillespie had not conceded by press time.
“Obviously, we are disappointed in the outcome in Colorado and Iowa, but overall credit unions had a great night,” Trey Hawkins, CUNA vice president of political affairs, said.
“Two strong supporters on the House Financial Services Committee - Shelley Moore Capito and Gary Peters - won election to the Senate,” he added.
Hawkins also noted races where CUNA invested heavily in winning candidates, including Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Minn.), Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) and former credit union employee Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) As of Nov. 5, Aguilar was ahead but the race was not officially called by press time.