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iRoll Calli notes CU fight to ease credit crunch
WASHINGTON (2/26/08)—Credit union efforts to aid economic stimulus initiatives and bankers’ opposition to those efforts were spotlighted in an article Monday published by Roll Call, a widely read publication covering Capitol Hill. Staff writer Kate Ackley wrote that the nationwide credit crunch has reinvigorated the long-running lobbying feud between credit unions and the banking industry as credit unions seek to help ease the crunch with an increase in member business lending (MBL) authority. Credit unions have been seeking to address the current 12.25% of assets MBL cap through legislation, such as the Credit Union Regulatory Improvements Act (CURIA, H.R. 1537) which proposes a 20% ceiling. However, in response to the nation’s credit woes, CUNA has pushed for breaking the MBL provision out of the more comprehensive CURIA bill as a way to open up more sources of credit for their communities. As CUNA President/CEO Dan Mica explains in the article, the credit union trade associations is pursuing three legislative options to get the cap raised: another stimulus package, a stand-alone bill and an amendment or rider attached to any other measure. “We think we would be a part of a solution this country needs,” Mica said in the article. He added that there seems to be no public policy reason credit unions shouldn’t be able to get the provision, but noted the bankers’ long-standing feud with credit unions as a hindrance. “At least in some part, the banks are responsible for this subprime crisis,” Mica added. “The credit unions have not been part of this problem in any way, so we think we ought to be able to make these small loans.” The article noted that banks want to “put the brakes” on the credit unions’ plan, arguing that “there is no credit crunch on its end — at least when it comes to business loans.” An unnamed banking lobbyist said in the article, “I don’t necessarily see how business loans would help. Lending to businesses isn’t really where the problem is. The problem is the housing market, and they can’t help in that regard.” The lobbyist called the credit unions’ efforts “opportunistic.” However, also in the article a House staffer said opening up more capital from credit unions would stimulate the economy. “The leadership in the Financial Services Committee has expressed an interest in moving parts of the legislation,” the aide said. “The loan limits could potentially increase.” Ackerman also noted that during its Governmental Affairs Conference next week, CUNA will be organizing about 4,500 credit union representatives to visit Capitol Hill during the GAC in support of increasing the caps and other legislative priorities. “Every state in the union will be represented,” Mica said.


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