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WASHINGTON-While the lame duck session of the 107th Congress opened last week and was only scheduled to end last Thursday, few believed that it would conclude in that time. Aside from the 11 remaining appropriations bills Congress needed to consider, some legislative items, including bankruptcy reform and IDAs, are expected to receive floor time during the lame duck. “We are very hopeful-very hopeful-that the bankruptcy abuse reform conference report will come up this week and that it will pass on the House side,” CUNA Vice President and Senior Legislative Counsel Gary Kohn said. “What happens on the Senate side is still up in the air. I don’t think it’s clear to even them yet what their schedule is going to be.” NAFCU Director of Legislative and Political Affairs Brad Thaler agreed. “For the lame duck session, the biggest factor appears to be how long will they be in town. The Republicans, I think, are emboldened by their election victories and are pushing to complete work on the Homeland Security bill in the lame duck session. The president seems ready to push for that,” he explained. Thaler said Homeland Security is a big question mark as to how much legislative time it will eat up. He added that both sides of the aisle are expected to turn the bankruptcy bill into some type of memorial, including a threatened filibuster by Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) that the late-Senator Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) cannot carry out for himself. Thaler also pointed out that Republicans might push the bill in honor of author Congressman George Gekas (R-Pa.), who lost his reelection bid to fellow incumbent Tim Holden (D-Pa.). The lobbyist said these issues raise many questions, “Will they have time to move [the bankruptcy reform bill] over a Senate filibuster in a lame duck session? Are they willing to put the effort to it?” “I think there will be a strong push in the House to get this bill through as part of Gekas’ `swan song’ when he leaves,” he added. And with Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott looking for a very short lame duck session, lawmakers will have to move quickly. He has said that he wants to see movement on the bankruptcy reform bill. President George W. Bush has also been pushing for the CARE bill, his charitable giving package that includes IDAs, to be passed during the lame duck. If it is not addressed, IDAs sponsors Senators Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) could try to get IDAs added to another bill, according to CUNA Legislative Manager Leon Peace. “There is a remote chance for IDAs, which are part of the CARE charitable giving package [to get] passed. The president has been continually calling for it and we believe we have a pretty good chance of getting something done,” he said. After tight elections, at this point it appears that the Democrats will maintain control of the Senate during the lame duck as long as it does not last long. Washingtonpost.com is reporting that Senate-appointee for Minnesota Dean Barkley will remain independent, not caucusing with either side, giving the Democrats a 50-49 lead in the Senate. However, if the special election of Jim Talent (R-Mo.) is certified while Congress is still in session, he will replace current Senator Jean Carnahan (D-Mo.), giving the Republicans the advantage. “The net effect of all this,” CUNA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs John McKechnie said, “is that Tom Daschle will be the majority leader for at least a few more days.” He predicted that maintaining the status quo could help bankruptcy’s chances of getting passed. He said CUNA would rather take care of bankruptcy now rather than next session, even though the Republicans will be in control. Credit unions also have an interest in some of the appropriations bills that remain. The maximum borrowing authority for the Central Liquidity Facility, which has been appropriated $1.5 billion in the current legislation, is contained in the Veterans’ Affairs-Housing and Urban Development appropriation bill. Additionally, funding for programs of the World Council of Credit Unions’ (WOCCU’s) projects in South Africa and Mexico are contained in the Foreign Operations bill. WOCCU could be looking to increase the funding in fiscal year 2004 to begin programs in Latin America, CUNA Vice President of Political Affairs Richard Gose said, after meeting with representatives from the region. Musical leadership? The leadership of both Republicans and Democrats in the House is expected to be distinctively different after the elections. The party’s will hold the leadership elections during the lame duck session. Due to the retirement of the Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas), fellow Texas Republican Tom DeLay is the favorite to take the position. The likely Majority Whip is Congressman Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). Both are considered credit union allies. With the failure of the Democrats to win back control of the House four elections running, Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) resigned as the party leader, and heir-apparent Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) stands ready to be elected the party’s next leader; she will be the first woman to lead either party in the House. Gephardt will maintain his seat in the House. Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) is likely to become the Minority Whip, replacing Pelosi. Hoyer ran against her for the position in the 107th Congress. “Both have been strong friends to the credit union industry so we’re pleased to see that,” Thaler said. Credit unions should be well positioned with the new Democratic leadership as both CUNA and NAFCU have said they have good working relationships with Pelosi and Hoyer. CULAC, CUNA’s political action committee, contributed a total of $8,000 to Pelosi’s campaign, and while the much smaller NAFCU/PAC did not contribute to Pelosi this election, it did contribute to many of her congressional friends that she requested. Additionally, CULAC gave $10,000 to Hoyer’s campaign. On the Senate side, the leadership will flip-flop with Republicans taking the majority and Democrats becoming the minority. The people in the leadership positions will basically remain the same with Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) becoming the Minority Leader, and Trent Lott (R-Miss.) reassuming the Majority Leader position after losing it when Senator Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.) jumped the Republican ship. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is expected to be elected Minority Whip. However, current Minority Whip Don Nickles (R-Okla.) is term limited and his likely replacement is Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Of the four potential new leaders, only McConnell, a member of the Judiciary and Appropriations Committees, was up for reelection this cycle, and, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, CULAC gave $11,000 to his campaign in the 2002 election cycle. CUNA was in a three-way tie for the 19th highest contributor to McConnell’s campaign, tied with the American Bankers Association and Brown and Williamson Tobacco. [email protected]

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