WASHINGTON (11/6/12)--A potentially busy lame duck session could provide opportunities for legislation addressing the credit union member business lending (MBL) cap to move through the U.S. Congress, Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Executive Vice President John Magill said.
"There are certain bills that must be addressed before Congress adjourns for the year, such as expiring tax laws including the payroll and Bush tax cuts, a farm bill, a Defense Authorization bill, certain treaties and extension of a number of other important tax extenders. It'll be a lively session and we continue to pursue all avenues that could result in the passage of an MBL bill in coming weeks," Magill said.
The lame duck session is scheduled to begin when members of Congress return to Washington on Nov. 13. The House is scheduled to be in session for 16 days. An official Senate calendar for the days following the election has not yet been released.
While CUNA is prepared for a straight up-or-down vote on stand-alone MBL legislation, Magill said that such a vote is unlikely to occur during the lame duck session. Instead, he said, CUNA is eyeing "a number of good vehicles that MBLs could hitch a ride on."
Addressing the so-called "fiscal cliff," via a combination of tax increases and public spending cuts, is one of the largest political priorities on the horizon. If legislators fail to compromise on these spending and tax issues by year end, $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction moves will be initiated on Jan. 2. Little may happen to change the oft-reported gridlock in Congress after today's federal election, with Republicans likely to retain a majority in the U.S. House and Democrats in the Senate: It may still be difficult to move legislation through Congress due to partisan divisions.
However, both parties will need to work together to avoid the fiscal cliff, Magill said.
Appropriations bills, various tax extenders, and the Farm Bill, which expired on Sept. 30, will also need to be addressed by Congress.
MBL language could be added to any of these priority bills, which are very important for members on both sides of the aisle, Magill noted. However, he said there will be plenty of competition for amendment slots on any larger pieces of legislation that move through the House or Senate.
CUNA and grassroots credit union supporters will need to be as visible as possible during the lame duck session to break through the noise and ensure MBL legislation is added to these larger bills, he said.
Senate leadership has committed to a floor vote on MBL legislation, and advocacy for MBL cap increase bills in the U.S. Senate (S. 2231) and House (H.R. 1418) will be the main focus during a late November National Hike the Hill. The Hike, which will bring credit union supporters, leagues and small business owners from across the country to Washington on Nov. 27 and 28, will increase the MBL cap lift's prospects for passage.
"We have the chance to do something good for our country's small businesses, our economy at large--and for the future of credit unions--if we can turn out, push this bill over the top and win this vote," CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney said announcing the advocacy effort. The MBL bills, which have bi-partisan support, would increase the credit union MBL cap to 27.5% of assets. H.R. 1418 has 140 cosponsors and S. 2231 has 21 cosponsors.
The credit union MBL legislation is among 26 items on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's list of unfinished legislative items, National Journal reported on Monday. However, National Journal noted that the length of that list means that some listed items may not be taken up before the year ends.
"Trying to predict a lame duck session is like trying to predict the weather for next June 1 with any accuracy" Magill said.
CUNA analysis shows the MBL cap increase would create 140,000 jobs and inject $13 billion in new funds into the economy during the first year after enactment. Both benefits would come at no cost to taxpayers.
CUNA also will watch the progress of other legislation of interest to credit unions, including bills that could ease credit unions' access to supplemental capital, provide ATM fee disclosure fixes, address cybersecurity issues, and change aspects of the financial institution examination process.