WASHINGTON (UPDATED 3/15/12 1:00 p.m. ET)--Within minutes of one another this morning on the floor of the U.S. Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) spoke in favor of legislation to increase the credit union member business lending (MBL) cap.
Reid indicated that he has been working with Udall to attach the MBL bill to a pending small business bill, the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act. (See News Now March 15) Under the process to which the Senate has agreed for consideration of the jobs bill, the Udall amendment can only be added by unanimous consent and indications are that effort would not likely be successful.
However, leader Reid indicated to the Senate body that he has begun procedural steps to bring the Udall bill (S. 509) to the floor as a stand-alone bill. No timetable was given, but Reid pledged there would be a vote on the bill, which would increase the MBL cap to 27.5% of a credit union's assets, up from 12.25%.
Udall, speaking last night and again this morning to his Senate colleagues on behalf of the MBL bill, blamed what he said could only be called a "strange" government MBL cap with keeping needed credit away from the country's small businesses.
He said that credit unions stand ready and able to provide additional credit to their small business members, but that hundreds of the financial cooperatives are currently impeded by the low statutory cap.
The Senate floor discussion occurred just days before more than 4,000 credit union representatives are scheduled to hit Washington, D.C. to attend the Credit Union National Association's (CUNA's) Governmental Affairs Conference. A standard feature of the GAC is that the representatives meet with their delegations of federal lawmakers to discuss key issues, such as the pending House and Senate bills that would increase the MBL cap. This year, credit unions will visit each of the 535 House and Senate offices to drive home the MBL message and discuss other key topics.
CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney said after the senators' floor statements, "I cannot stress enough how critical next week's meetings will be to credit unions' success on this issue." He encouraged credit unions, in advance of those meetings, to continue to reach out to all senators to encourage them to support the Udall bill.