WASHINGTON-Before adjourning for the session, Congress still has a number of credit union-supported items to consider. Of course, when Congress will adjourn is anyone's guess. It was originally scheduled for Oct. 3, which has officially been pushed back until Halloween for the House, but NAFCU Director of Legislative and Political Affairs Brad Thaler said it could be as late as Thanksgiving. The House may even only adjourn "subject to the call of the chair," CUNA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs John McKechnie said, which means there is a possibility lawmakers could be brought back in session over the winter break if necessary. The situation is very fluid, he emphasized. Appropriations legislation may run up until the very last minute. So far, only three of 13 appropriations bills have become public law. "At some point this month or early November, you're ultimately going to see an omnibus appropriations package again this year. It's still unclear what bills would be rolled into it," Thaler said. He added that the he is unaware of any reconciliation efforts between the House and Senate on their Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development, and Independent Agencies Appropriations bills. According to Thaler, "That's one of the bills that had been mentioned as a possibility for being included in the omnibus package." The VA-HUD Appropriation bill includes funding for Treasury's Community Development Financial Institutions Fund, NCUA's Community Development revolving loan fund, and the Central Liquidity Facility's borrowing cap. CUNA's McKechnie said he still expects legislation reauthorizing seven federal preemptions of state consumer credit sharing laws plus identity theft protection measures to be passed before the expiration of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The preemptions aid the flow of information across state lines and provide for cheaper, faster, and more access to credit for consumers, according to industry representatives. The FCRA bill had a seven-year sunset provision, which ends January 1, 2004. "CUNA is very much in favor of the House passed bill," McKechnie said. He added that CUNA is "OK" with the Senate bill too, which has some stricter identity theft protection provisions, with a few exceptions. The bill has passed the House by a vote of 392-30, and unanimously passed the Senate Banking Committee. Senate Banking Committee Press Secretary Andrew Gray confirmed that the committee staff is preparing its report of the committee's approval, which must be passed along to the full Senate with the bill, for delivery this week. The Senate leadership has committed floor time to the bill, he added, but it still needs to be scheduled. He said to look for it in the next couple of weeks. California Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer have been pushing for an amendment either similar to the recently passed California privacy law or creating a carve-out for the state's law, considered one of the toughest in the nation. "I don't think it will stall the bill indefinitely. I think it's something that needs to be worked through," Thaler said. "I know Senators Feinstein and Boxer are pretty adamant on their amendment, but there's not been the indication that they're ready to kill the whole FCRA bill over it." He added that we could see a deal on it for an up or down vote on the amendment to give them an opportunity to try to insert their language. Additionally, the Senate was expected to take up the conference report on check truncation legislation, popularly known as Check 21, last week though a date had not been set. The bill allows credit unions to substitute paper checks with electronic checks earlier in the presentment process and more often than currently allowed for greater cost savings. In a letter to the Senate leadership, CUNA President and CEO Dan Mica wrote, "CUNA and its member credit unions are pleased with the progress the legislation has made, and are hopeful that the Check 21 Act will be enacted this year. The legislation would revolutionize the way share drafts and checks are processed, by increasing the ability of financial institutions to convert paper checks into electronic checks in the check collection/return process." The Senate Banking Committee also recently held confirmation hearings on the renominations of Federal Reserve Board Vice Chairman Roger Ferguson and Governor Ben Bernanke. "There's increasing talk that Bernanke's going to be the next Alan Greenspan, so I don't think there's going to be any problem with his nomination going through," NAFCU Economist Jeff Taylor commented. He added that Fed Chairman Greenspan's departure is not imminent. NAFCU Senior Economist Tun Wai interjected that a president of the New York Fed Bank has not been picked, "which is a very key position." With elections coming up in about a year, credit union lobbyists are staying tuned into who is coming and going. Senator Don Nickles (R-Okla.) recently announced that he would not be seeking reelection. "It's hard to speculate on what will happen. I think both parties will try to recruit the strongest candidates that they can get to run," Thaler said. According to McKechnie the Oklahoma Credit Union League is very involved in the political machine in the state. He admitted that there are rumors that retired Congressman J.C. Watts (R-Okla.), formerly the only African-American Republican in Congress (now there are none) may seek the seat. The race is expected to shape up over the next couple of months. [email protected]

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