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131 House members sign letter urging conferees to strike interchange
WASHINGTON (6/17/10)--A total of 131 House members, led by Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) and Kenny Marchant (R-Tex.), weighed in on the interchange debate Wednesday, telling their congressional colleagues of their “grave concerns” over portions of the financial regulatory reform package that would allow the federal government to impose controls on the fees paid to use electronic payment networks. In a letter sent Wednesday to House and Senate conferees, the legislators urged their colleagues to reject the interchange language that would “devastate credit unions and community banks, while providing no discernible benefits for consumers.” The 70 Democratic and 61 Republican legislators also called for greater analysis and consideration of the many issues surrounding the interchange system, adding that there was “far too much uncertainty” that the “sweeping” changes wrought by this interchange legislation could “harm both consumers and the small financial institutions” that are vital to economic recovery. "This letter sends a powerful signal to conferees that the Senate interchange amendment should be taken out of the broader regulatory reform bill," noted Credit Union National Association President Dan Mica. "The fact so many House members object to its inclusion is further evidence the interchange amendment, at a minimum, deserves more study and careful consideration to avoid unintended consequences that will hurt consumers. It should not be part of the broader reform legislation." Four additional House members also produced their own letters opposing interchange changes. In a Wednesday release, Schultz said that the interchange amendment would force Americans to “pay more for basic banking products and credit cards” and prevent them from receiving the “valuable services like fraud and identity theft protection” that are paid for by the current interchange system. “Worse, the Senate amendment destroys the economics of prepaid debit card programs, which are increasingly relied upon to deliver banking products to underserved and unbanked recipients because they provide a convenient, lower cost form of payment. Under the Senate amendment, consumers lose,” she added. Rep. Marchant also commented in the release, saying that the interchange legislation would allow the government to “pick the winners and losers in a private transaction.” The letter and release follow recent Hill visits from hundreds of credit union representatives and ongoing calls and emails from over 550,000 credit union backers nationwide. Those credit union activists have all urged legislators to remove the interchange language, which was only included in the Senate version of regulatory reform. Mica this week urged credit union leaders to keep up the drive against interchange limits and thanked legislators for opposing the interchange changes. The interchange provisions were also discussed during a Wednesday Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing chaired by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), who sponsored the interchange amendment that was added to the Senate’s regulatory reform bill last month. Interchange is expected to be addressed by the conference committee early next week. For the full letter, use the resource link.


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