Credit union member business lending made a to-do list published Nov. 5 by the National Journal that originated from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) office. 

Despite the encouraging news that credit unions are still on Reid’s mind, the Washington Beltway publication added a dash of pessimism, saying the length of the list ensures many items will not be completed in this Congress.

S. 2231, which would raise the member business lending cap to 27.5% of assets, will indeed have to compete with some high-profile legislative priorities, according to the report. The list also includes the fiscal cliff, farm bill, defense authorization, cyber security and one from the banking lobby’s wish list, the extension of unlimited federal deposit insurance for transactional accounts.

CUNA Executive Vice President of Government Affairs John Magill said the number of bills that must be passed during the lame duck session increases the likelihood that member business lending could be attached to another piece of legislation.

“We have not gone to sleep on this, we’ve been on the Hill, selling the message, and I think have some good opportunities to put MBL on one of those bills,” Magill said.

John McKechnie, a partner at Washington-based consulting firm Total Spectrum, said credit unions have been promised an MBL vote.

“Now is the time for that vote,” he urged. 

McKechnie agreed with Magill that the bill could pass as an attachment to another, saying anytime there is an issue on the Senate floor, everything is wide open. However, the bill could earn its own vote as well, and if it does, it has a shot at passing, he offered. 

“We’ve been working under that assumption for a while, that it has a chance,” McKechnie said. “And all we’ve been asking for is a chance to take it to a vote. I think the merits of the bill are strong enough to win the vote, but not without some controversy.”

CUNA’s MBL pitch won’t change after the election, Magill said. The focus will continue to be that S. 2231 would create 140,000 jobs in the first year at no cost to taxpayers, and would pump $13 million into small business lending.

If bankers stubbornly block member business lending progress as they have pre-election, Magill said CUNA won’t turn the other cheek. Banker opposition has been more than duly noted, he said. If it continues, credit unions will return the favor and oppose the banking agenda.

Another bill that may see some action yet this year is S. 3394, legislation that would eliminate the ATM placard disclosure requirement and stop frivolous lawsuits against banks and credit unions when the signs are missing or have been vandalized. The bill has been combined with a measure that would legally protect confidential information provided to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, but the legislation has stalled thanks to a hold put on the bill by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who is pushing for a complete repeal of the Dodd-Frank Act.

McKechnie said industry lobbyists continue to work behind the scenes to build support for passage of the bill during the lame duck session; that controversy could be resolved so the combined measure could move forward.

Magill said the ATM bill has a 50/50 shot of being passed during the lame duck session. DeMint’s repeal won’t happen and there have been helpful signs S. 3394 could move forward, he offered.  

NAFCU Vice President of Legislative Affairs Brad Thaler said the lame duck session will depend largely upon election results. If Mitt Romney wins the Presidential election, Thaler said House Republicans will put legislation on the backburner in anticipation of dealing with the Romney Administration. The same stall would likely happen if either the House or the Senate majority changes party.

“There would be an effort to get some quick fixes,” Thaler said of legislative issues like the fiscal cliff. A regime change wouldn’t automatically mean member business lending is dead for this year. However, the overall strategy on Capitol Hill would be one of waiting until January to tackle anything new, Thaler said.

Should the election produce little or no change, Thaler said legislators may buckle down and do some tough work.

“Because when they come back in January, everyone will still hold the same cards,” he predicted.

McKechnie agreed, saying status quo election results produce no incentive to wait until next year for better legislative deals. As a result, he said, the lame duck session could produce some significant new legislation.

Thaler said in addition to MBL and the ATM bill, NAFCU will also continue to promote its tax study during the lame duck. The expected tax debate could set up the parameters for next year’s tax reform debate.