House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (pictured left) greets longtime campaign volunteer Bill Dawson, of Henrico Federal Credit Union. Though Congressman Cantor continues to say he is a fan of credit unions, he declined to add a key credit union member business lending measures to his recent JOBS Act.
This year more of our federal lawmakers joined with Rep. Gerry Connolly, the sole Virginian sponsor of H.R. 1418, in talking about member business lending at the League’s annual Congressional Luncheon in Washington.
Unlike past years, many of the legislators noted that credit unions provide business lending as they made comments to nearly 130 credit union advocates from across the state, and Tennessee too.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor led the delegation with remarks at noon. “You are Main Street, the link between businesses and families,” he acknowledged, though he had declined to put in his JOBS package the bill to raise the cap on member business lending.
Rep. Bobby Scott thanked credit unions for providing affordable services, including member business lending. He also said that regulations for credit unions shouldn’t be as severe as the rules governing the “too big to fail” banks.
Rep. Scott Rigell, nodding to the Project Zip Code number read in the introductory remarks for him, said he had 300,000 good reasons to be at the luncheon. “Thank you for the critical rol you play in small businesses,” he said. “I respect the services you provide. I appreciate what you’re doing to help our economy.” He also noted that the house this week passed his own economic development bill that would remove a federal block on Accomack County’s efforts to develop land as part of a research park near NASA Wallops Flight Facility. That bill now moves to the Senate. He said passage of his bill shows that “there are rays of hope of bipartisanship in Congress.”
Rep. Rob Wittman prefaced his remarks by paying respects to Langley CEO Jean Yokum, who is retiring in July. “I thank her for her leadership. She’s a real icon.”
He also made a bow to what he called “The role credit unions play to make sure that capital flow is maintained.” He added that he’s been a credit union member for 29 years. He acknowledged that credit unions are lobbying for H.R. 1418, the MBL cap bill. “I have talked to people in leadership in the Financial Services Committee and House to make sure there is at least a consideration of this issue. It’s a challenging issue. I appreciate you’re meeting a need and you wanting to get capital out to businesses.”
He also said that he and credit unions have common concerns, citing his co-sponsorship of H.R. 3461, the bill that require examiners to cite a basis for their findings and provide an ombuds office for appeal. Bankers also support the bill. Reps. Connolly, Forbes, Hurt and Wolf are also co-sponsors.
Rep. Connolly was introduced to thunderous applaud for his willingness to co-sponsor the MBL cap bill in two different sessions of Congress. “I am so proud to stand with credit unions,” he said. “It’s not a matter of favoring one type of financial institution over another. I wanted to support anyone who was providing capital to small businesses. I hope this year we’ll have success” on the MBL bill. He noted that he belongs to the two credit unions serving lawmakers and legislative staff.
Rep. Morgan Griffith lauded credit unions for their great work in lending money and to their commitment to the communities they serve. He also paid special note to Eastman Credit Union, a Tennessee credit union with branches in Virginia, for its support of a student art competition that the Congressman sponsored.
Rep. Robert Hurt, who is the only Virginia Congressman on the House Financial Services Committee, applauded credit unions for being so well-organized on advocating on their issues. He called credit union staff “people who are dedicated to your communities.”
He referred to the JOBS bill passed by the House as legislation to make it easier for businesses to get capital. Again, that package of bills contains a provision to help community banks but not credit unions. He averred, “One thing is for sure: There is no government program or stimulus that is more effective in creating jobs than having the private sector put capital on the street. That is what you represent. I value your vital role in the economy.”
Next up was Sen. Mark Warner, the lone Virginian on the Senate Banking Committee. He was introduced by his former transportation secretary and current League lobbyist, Whitt Clement, who promoted S. 509 in his remarks. The Senator acknowledged the issue, repeating the reference to S. 509 that he had made last year. “I am under prayerful consideration.” Mindful that 509 may come to a vote this year in the Senate he added, “My ability to punt is coming to an end. But I still have a few more days of prayerful consideration.” He added his kudos to credit unions ”I appreciate as well all the great things that credit unions have done.” Remarking that he had spoken the same day to 1,000 bankers at the ABA convention, he added, “You have such commonality.”
[If you contacted Sen. Warner on S. 509, you should receive an answer that reads, in part: "Even though the economy has shown some signs of recovery, many small and medium-sized businesses continue to struggle from the lack of credit supply from banks and the disappearance of the shadow lending system. Credit unions are an important source of credit to small businesses, and their loans to small business members rose sharply during the last few years." ]
Sen. Warner addressed another major concern of credit unions, over-regulation. He said he has spent 1 1/2 years working on what he calls Pay-go for regulations: if one regulation is added, one has to be dropped. He also wants to see reviews of regulations three years after enactment to determine if they are fulfilling their mission.
He conceded that portions of the Wall Street reform package known as Dodd-Frank were aimed strictly at the big banks, but credit unions and smaller banks are saying that examiners apply the more stringent rules meant for the larger institutions to the small ones too as best practice standards. “That was not the intent,” he said. “We stand committed to getting that fixed.” He again implored the audience members to hold lawmakers feet to the fire to get the job done on the deficit and budget issues, challenging the electorate to fire lawmakers if they don’t succeed.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte started his remarks by saying, “I am proud that the credit union league is headquartered in my district, and that every year there are enough of my constituents at the luncheon to fill two tables. It is so important for you to be here.” He also noted that he keeps his campaign money in a credit union.
“I’ve worked with you on your common bond and bankruptcy bills,” he said in a nod to past support of bills that credit unions supported that made it to the House floor. He cited member business lending as “important to our communities and economy. I believe there are ways forward here. One way may be the House passing S. 509. Another way forward may be moving it on legislation that deregulates financial services,” such as a bill un-doing Dodd-Frank. “We ought to be able to do what should be done — lend to people with great ideas to grow the economy.” He pledged to look for a legislative opportunity where the MBL cap issue could be addressed.
Rep. Randy Forbes noted that what he most appreciates about credit unions is them “not letting the people you serve become numbers.You know their names and you have relationships with them.” He took a macro view of what is happening in Washington, saying there are three main issues that should be garnering the focus of lawmakers: gas prices that harm the economy; regulators who walk into businesses assuming they are run by crooks; and the “sleeper” issue of sequestration, which would force a half-trillion dollar budget cut on national defense.
Representative Frank Wolf was represented at the luncheon by his banking aide, Craig Whitham. Rep. Jim Moran had planned to attend but last-minute business on the House floor changed his schedule. Sen. Jim Webb neither attended nor sent staff.
We should note that all the offices of our federal lawmakers saw League and credit union advocates before the luncheon. On Monday advocates Jason Clarke of DuPont Community and Glenn Birch of Virginia Credit Union joined League staffer Karin Sherbin on visits with the banking aides to Sens. Webb and Warner. Sherbin continued the mini hike the hike on the House side that day, joined by BayPort and Board member Stan Leicester in the visit with Rep. Wittman’s aide. On Tuesday and early Wednesday, advocates from Member One and DuPont Community met with Reps. Goodlatte and Hurt.
We thank the legislative aides for making time to see us this week, and we thank the credit union volunteers who also visited aides or Congressmen. As we all know, the MBL bill is a very difficult issue for most of our lawmakers due to strident banker opposition, and it will take all of us working together on a consistent basis to have a fighting chance to gain support for our legislation. We made a lot of progress this past week. Upward and onward!