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WASHINGTON-The elections last week can have a significant impact on issues near and dear to credit unions. One key point is getting a nominee to the NCUA Board. With Senator John Kerry’s (D) concession to President George W. Bush on Nov. 3, the White House is free to continue working on nominating someone to the seat that has remained empty since April after former NCUA Chairman Dennis Dollar left the seat after serving a year over his term. The appointee will have only about four years of a six-year term to serve on the NCUA Board. As the term gets shorter, it will be less appealing to potential appointees who have to uproot their current lives to serve. “I am extremely pleased with the President’s re-election,” NCUA Chairman JoAnn Johnson, who was appointed to the board and elevated to the chairmanship by President Bush, said. “President Bush will continue to provide solid leadership for a growing economy and spurring more economic growth across America. In particular, President Bush recognizes the great work of America’s credit unions in an ownership society and helping their members achieve the American Dream.” After Bush was officially declared the winner Nov. 3, NAFCU Director of Legislative and Political Affairs Brad Thaler said Johnson is likely to remain chairman and the vetting process for the empty seat will continue as it has. However, it may be easier to get a nominee through the Senate confirmation process with Republicans edging up three or four seats in the Senate, possibly reaching up to 55 seats. “Particularly with the increase in the Senate, they should be able to move someone through in early 2005,” Thaler predicted. “I hope that now the White House can start refocusing again on that. Keep in mind this next president, George W. Bush, is going to have the ability to appoint three NCUA Board Members in the next four years,” McKechnie stated. “So this president will have a real imprint on the credit union movement from a regulatory perspective.” Matz’ term is up Aug. 2 of next year (see sidebar), while Johnson will serve through Aug. 2, 2007. Another long-term project of credit unions and other members has been bankruptcy reform, which has come close to being signed into law several times in the last eight years. “Bankruptcy legislation will be very much in plan again with a stronger Republican leadership in the Senate,” NAFCU Senior Legislative Representatives Murray Chanow said. The bill could be brought up during the lame duck session, expected to begin Nov. 16, or it could be put off until next session depending upon the political decisions made, he said. On one hand Democrats may decide it is in their best interests to allow bankruptcy reform legislation (H.R. 975) through this year because they may get a “less objectionable deal if they go along now rather than wait until next year when something that might be less to their liking” could get pushed through, McKechnie explained. He said the morning after the elections he had already spoken with House Judiciary people about “trying to pick the lock again” during the lame duck, but they are not tipping their hand until that time.” However, if the Republicans obtain the 54 or 55 seats they are expected to in the Senate, they will only need five Democrats to agree on the need for bankruptcy reform to break a filibuster next session. “You can pick up five Democrats (easier) if you can convince them that we need bankruptcy reform” than it was to get the nine needed in the 108th Congress, NAFCU’s Thaler said. Additionally, the future of the Credit Union Regulatory Improvements Act (H.R. 3579) is looking bright as the bulk of the co-sponsors have retained their seats. Of the total 69 members of Congress backing the bill, just two lost their re-election bids. Congressman Ciro Rodriguez (D-Texas) actually lost his primary race to attorney Henry Cuellar, who went on to win the seat last night. Another Texas Democrat, Nick Lampson, lost his race for re-election to Judge Ted Poe (R). Additionally, CURIA co-sponsor Congressman Ken Lucas (D-Ky.) did not seek re-election. His seat was won by a newcomer to the political arena, Republican Geoff Davis. One of the big losses on Election Day for credit unions was Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.). “Senator Daschle has been a friend to credit unions. The league has been exceptionally close to him and had a terrific relationship dating back to the days when he was first elected to the House back in 1978,” McKechnie said, adding that CUNA President and CEO Dan Mica was also close to him having been elected in the same year. McKechnie also noted that Daschle had been one of the more prominent Democratic supporters of bankruptcy reform. NCUA Board Member Matz had been out stumping for Daschle just prior to the election. CUNA Vice President of Political Affairs Richard Gose had predicted all year that Daschle may not win. Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the current minority whip, and Senator Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) are some of the names already circulating as the next minority leader in the Senate, McKechnie said. Both groups pointed out that the shift from 51 to 55 Republicans in the Senate could lead to changes in the balance of the committees. Historically, Gose pointed out, at 55, the majority would have a two-seat advantage on the committees as opposed to the current one seat advantage. McKechnie added that the Democrats haven’t had as few as 44 seats in the Senate in decades. One of the seats the Democrats lost was that of Senator John Breaux (La.) who did not seek re-election. Louisiana’s races are open with any number of candidates running. Both CUNA and NAFCU admitted they were surprised, but not in a bad way, when Congressman David Vitter (R) won the open Senate seat with more than 50% of the vote as required to avoid a run-off in December. Chanow said that NAFCU Board Treasurer John Milazzo, CEO of Campus Federal Credit Union, has a good working relationship with Vitter. CUNA was excited to participate in a number of successful races for open seats, but Gose reserved the right to label them as credit union friends just yet. “I think we have to let them take a few votes before we start putting stars on them,” he said. CUNA supported King County Sheriff Dave Reichert (R) who won in Washington’s eighth district; State Senator Allyson Schwartz (D) who will represent Pennsylvania’s 13th district; and Republican candidate Geoff Davis; among several others. “The leagues have done very good jobs of cultivating a lot of credit union friends at the state level and local office,” McKechnie commented. “The fact that they’re sending friends to Washington makes our job that much easier.” On the tax front, he added, “We think we’ve elected a 109th Congress that has every bit as much support for credit unions’ tax-exempt status as the previous Congress.” In congratulating the president and others on re-election, NAFCU President and CEO Fred Becker noted the many areas where the Bush Administration has supported credit union issues and was optimistic about credit union legislation in Congress. “On behalf of the NAFCU Board of Directors and the credit union community, I want to congratulate President Bush on his election to a second term in office. NAFCU has worked closely with this administration, and we plan to continue to build on those relationships over the next four years,” he said. “We are also very optimistic about the prospects for credit union issues in the next Congress, given the administration’s strong support of financial literacy, regulatory relief and bankruptcy reform. The president has also expressed a keen interest in preserving the tax-exempt status of credit unions, recognizing the vital role that credit union unions play in this country’s growing economy.” [email protected]

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