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<p>WASHINGTON-The Senate Banking Committee has voted in favor of NCUA Board nominees JoAnn Johnson and Deborah Matz and opened the door to a full Senate vote. The vote was originally scheduled for two weeks ago, but the committee failed to establish a quorum. The committee also failed to have a quorum present for an Enron hearing last week when a second attempt to vote on the nominees was made. After the vote, Matz said, “I’m really pleased how quickly they moved on this and very appreciative.” She added that the full Senate could take the nominations up for a vote by Thursday, March 21. Johnson expressed her appreciation as well and said she looked forward to the Senate picking up where the committee left off. “Hopefully the full Senate will pick this up in the short-term,” she said. “Both candidates did a superb job in representing themselves last week in their confirmation hearing,” CUNA President and CEO Dan Mica said. “Each has also shown a genuine interest in the viability of the credit union movement. Their sincerity of purpose, as well as their sharp presentations, clearly played a role in influencing the Banking Committee to act swiftly on their nominations.” “We are delighted that [Senate Banking Committee] Chairman [Paul] Sarbanes (D-Md.) and Ranking Member Senator [Phil] Gramm (R-Texas) chose to bring JoAnn Johnson and Debby Matz nominations to such a quick committee vote following confirmation hearings last week.We want to congratulate NCUA Board members JoAnn Johnson and Debby Matz in moving one step closer to Full Senate confirmation.” NAFCU President and CEO Fred Becker said. Matz and Johnson are currently serving as recess appointees until the committee approves them and they are confirmed by the full Senate. Their recess appointments will end at the end of this congressional session if the Senate does not approve six-year, full-terms. After Senate confirmation, Johnson’s appointment will be extended through August 2007 and Matz’s will continue through August 2005. Two years of Matz’s term were served by former NCUA Chairman Norm D’Amours and former recess appointee Geoff Bacino. Former Board Member Yolanda Wheat also served a few months into Johnson’s term. If the Senate does not move after deadline, the appointments will not be addressed until Congress returns from spring recess on the first of April. Sarbanes and Gramm indicated their support for the nominees during their hearings. They also made a point of getting their concerns about the credit union community out on the table. According to credit union lobbyists, there is no real cause for concern because it has all been said before. “Those are comments that we’ve been in discussions with them over a couple of years,” NAFCU Director of Political and Legislative Affairs Brad Thaler said of Sarbanes’ remarks about credit unions’ tax-exempt status and Gramm’s concern about industry overgrowth and the regulator-regulated relationship. Sarbanes asked if credit unions continued to grow and look like other financial institutions why they should not be taxed. Gramm took time to remind the potential board members that they are in service to American consumers and not credit unions. CUNA Vice President and Senior Legislative Counsel Gary Kohn echoed Thaler’s sentiments, “This is not the first time we’ve heard this from the Chairman so it’s not real news to us.” Kohn pointed out that Sarbanes has a particular interest in serving the underserved and the mention may be fallout from the Community Action Plan repeal. Specifically regarding regulators as promoters of credit unions, Kohn added, “We’ve heard that before but I don’t think that’s an accurate assessment, particularly after years with a regulator that was not close.” If any regulator is a “cheerleader” for its industry, he said it is the OCC. However, the statements from the lawmakers did prompt an e-mail from CUNA President and CEO Dan Mica to all the organization’s member CEOs. “There’s no question in my mind that today credit unions received a reality check during the Senate Banking Committee confirmation hearing,” the e-mail read. Mica wrote that CUNA needs to continue to “build and solidify” its political base in order to move forward with legislative efforts, including the Renaissance Commission. Kohn commented that it goes to show, “No matter how many friends you have in Congress, it’s never enough.” He also explained the comments from Gramm and Sarbanes would not affect CUNA’s lobbying strategy. Thaler said the same thing but added that it would be floating in the back of their minds. He also pointed out that the Senators have made similar comments to other regulators. “I think it’s more of an overall comment than echoing of any concerns,” he said. [email protected]</p>

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