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WASHINGTON-Even with a new makeup of the Congress, following numerous Republican victories, many of the issues the 108th Congress will tackle are the same ones dodged in the 107th. While House and Senate Republicans named their new committee members a few weeks back, the Democrats have just been getting around to theirs. Eight Democrats, mostly credit union-supported, are joining the House Financial Services Committee. CUNA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs John McKechnie said that four incumbents, who are all considered to have a generally positive relationship with credit unions, are being added to the committee: Carolyn McCarthy (N.Y.); Joe Baca (Calif.); Stephen Lynch (Mass.); and Jim Matheson (Utah). The remainder of the new Democratic Financial Services Committee members is comprised of freshman, including Artur Davis (Ala.); Rahm Emanuel (Ill.); Brad Miller (N.C.); and David Scott (Ga.). Even though Baca’s office wrote a letter in support of maintaining the Community Action Plan, a CRA-like regulation for credit unions, the state league has a “good, communicative relationship” with him, according to McKechnie. CULAC supported all but one of these candidates financially, with contributions ranging from $1,000 (Emmanuel) to the maximum $10,000 (Matheson and Miller). Davis was in a very tight race, in which CULAC did not give to any candidate, McKechnie explained. Additionally, with the departure of the former ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, and Congressman Barney Frank’s (D-Mass.) elevation to that post, he gave up his position as ranking member of the Housing Subcommittee. Representative Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) will take over that position and Congressman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will become ranking member of the Financial Institutions Subcommittee. “We have a very strong relationship with Bernie Sanders, so we look forward to working with him,” CUNA Vice President and Senior General Counsel Gary Kohn commented. The changing of the guard in the Senate Banking Committee has thrown some new issues into the mix. Though House Financial Services Committee Chairman Mike Oxley (Ohio) and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (Ala.) are both Republicans, they have already begun demonstrating their differences of opinion, particularly on privacy matters. However, credit union lobbyists appear unconcerned about their differences affecting credit union issues. “We’ve worked with both Chairman Shelby and Chairman Oxley in the past and look forward to working with them ahead in this Congress,” NAFCU Director of Legislative and Political Affairs Brad Thaler said. “Both of them have a good track record of working with credit unions and we will continue to work with them.” “They’re both very strong supporters of regulatory relief and the concept, so that’s a good premise to start from,” NAFCU Communications Manager John Zimmerman pointed out. NAFCU Senior Vice President and General Counsel Bill Donovan added that historically, “people of very different political philosophies are able to come together for credit union initiatives and we anticipate that to continue.” One of the first issues the Financial Services Committee is expected to consider is deposit insurance reform, which will include a $130,000 coverage ceiling. The Senate is not likely to include that provision, but the bill will also include provisions from last year, such as those ending the automatic 23-basis point premium charge and creating a reserve ratio range. Credit unions have only been concerned with parity in this bill and do not necessarily advocate an increase. Bankruptcy reform is another oldie, but goodie. While the credit union community and other proponents of bankruptcy reform have waded through the last few Congressional sessions without passing a bankruptcy reform package, they may not be as patient this year. “We don’t want to simply continue in the debate if they’re going to do the same thing as last year,” CUNA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs John McKechnie explained. However, he said, the 108th Congress may not come out with the same old bill. One idea that is being played out is parceling up the bill into the consumer provisions, the farm provisions, and netting, among others. McKechnie called this idea was “encouraging.” Another difference could be the fast tracking of the bill. Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Committee Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), an original sponsor of the bill, are reportedly considering political maneuvers to skip the legislation straight to a conference committee without going to the Senate floor again. However, the Democrats have been insistent the bill go through the entire process, McKechnie said. He added that it was unclear who would actually introduce the bill in the Senate, but either Hatch or Grassley would be most likely. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner is expected to introduce the bill in the House. Member business lending legislation is going to be one of the many dj vu experiences for credit union lobbyists this congressional session. House Financial Services Committee Member Ed Royce (R-Calif) has reintroduced his legislation to exempt business loans to non-profit religious organizations from credit unions’ member business lending cap. The bill, H.R. 383, according to NAFCU lobbyists, is reportedly identical to the last one, though the language was unavailable at press time. [email protected]

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