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WASHINGTON-As has proven true a number of times in the past, anything is possible with bankruptcy reform legislation during the lame duck session of Congress, slated to conclude last week. While much of the Congress’ time during the lame duck will be filled with either appropriations bills or continuing resolutions to keep the government running until the 109th Congress, credit union lobbyists are not completely writing off bankruptcy reform. One of the unfinished spending bills is the Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development, and Independent Agencies appropriation, which includes the borrowing authority for the Central Liquidity Facility, funding for the Community Development Revolving Loan Fund program, and funding for the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund. “I can’t really tell you with any certainty what is going to happen this week.” CUNA Senior Vice President for Governmental Affairs John McKechnie admitted to reporters early last week. However, he added, “We are being proactively watchful on the Hill right now. The lame duck session could, in fact, present some opportunities to get things done, specifically on bankruptcy abuse legislation.” McKechnie spoke with a Democratic House staffer last week, who acknowledged the truly political season was over. “The key to this issue is whether or not some of the Senate Democrats decide that they can deal with the issue now.or deal with the issue next year when the ratios will change,” he explained. Though NAFCU Director of Legislative and Political Affairs Brad Thaler said the chances for bankruptcy reform legislation in the waning hours of the 108th Congress are “probably slim and none,” he said there is still a glimmer of hope. “As long as Congress is in session, the bankruptcy reform bill has had a tendency of coming back from the dead sometimes in the wee hours of the morning, so I wouldn’t say that it’s outright dead for the year.” Thaler explained. He added, “I think it’s notable that the House leadership has already put up bankruptcy reform as one of its agenda items for the beginning months of the 109th Congress. So I think there’s a recognition on Capitol Hill that the issue’s not going to get resolved this year. It will likely return early next year. I think a lot of work is being done by the leadership to figure out how to get the bill through and craft something to move through next year.” “Many would like to hold [the lame duck session] to just this week, however, that’s not necessarily set in stone yet,” Thaler said. In related news, there is some question as to whether Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) will take over as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman from the term-limited Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). The Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over bankruptcy reform. Additionally, Senate Democrats selected Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.) as their new minority leader. Senator Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) will serve as the new Democratic Whip. Meanwhile, things are already shaping up for next Congress. CUNA Legislative Counsel for Tax, Pensions, and Housing Leon Peace said Congressmen Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) are already working on piecing together another retirement bill. “In the new Congress you may expect that there will be a lot more interest in the tax-favored savings plans.” Peace explained. “We’re going to be following that pretty closely.” Finally, as is typical with second-term presidents, many Cabinet members and other appointees are peeling away from the administration, including the attorney general. Thaler said that while the Democrats are not going to stall nominations, they are expected to take their time to drive home points about the administration’s policies. Do all the new nominations that will be coming through mean an NCUA Board nominee could be thrown in there or will it just further delay filling the seat that has been empty since former NCUA Chairman Dennis Dollar resigned in April? “It’s hard to say,” Thaler commented. “It just depends on if they have a candidate and how that candidate goes through in the process. At the cabinet level, I think the president probably has people in mind for secretary candidates.” However, he pointed out, “Over at Treasury, at least initial reports are they don’t expect a whole lot of changes.[I]f they were expecting a lot of changes, you’d see a number of nomination hearings scheduled in the Senate Banking Committee. If there aren’t a lot of Treasury nominations, housing nominations or other nominations that have jurisdiction with the Banking Committee, if the NCUA nominee comes out, there’s more opportunity to get them on the docket for the hearing process to work through the Senate Banking Committee.” [email protected]

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