Ten members of Virginia's Congressional delegation addressed a room full of 140 credit union advocates at Wednesday's Congressional Luncheon in Washington.
Senators Warner and Kaine and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor praised credit unions and highlighted their perspective on issues ranging from housing finance reform to the federal budget process.
Representatives Rob Wittman (R-1); Scott Rigell (R-2); Bobby Scott (D-3); Robert Hurt (R-5); Bob Goodlattte (R-6); Frank Wolf (R-10) and Gerry Connolly (D-10) followed suit. Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-9) met briefly with constituents after the luncheon. The banking aide for Rep. Randy Forbes (R-4) attended the luncheon.
They too followed suit in thanking credit unions for their service to members and communities, and affirming support for the credit union tax exemption, an exemption that is retained in the white paper released later that day by House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp.
There were also laudatory words and thanks given to Rep. Wolf, the dean of the Virginia delegation who is retiring at the end of this term. For instance, Sen. Warner called Rep. Wolf a truth teller, echoed by Rep. Hurt calling him the conscience of the House.
Credit Union National Association CEO Bill Cheney also addressed the attendees, thanking them for their advocacy on behalf of the tax exemption. The retention of the exemption in the tax reform proposal "did not happen by accident," Cheney noted. Even though the banks spent millions to lobby for the elimination of the exemption, credit union relationships with their lawmakers and the contacts made with the Don't Tax My Credit Union message proved successful. "I'm very proud of what I heard here today. No one (of your lawmakers) said taxing credit unions is a good thing. You should be proud of yourselves."
Rep. Connolly, the only Virginian to sign on to the member business lending bill, said: "You do not constitute a threat to banks in any form. When banks were constricting lending, credit unions were expanding lending. You were a lifeline in a gloomy time." He warned that even though Congress isn't talking about eliminating the tax exemption now, credit unions must remain vigilant.
Rep. Wittman: While repeating his support of credit unions, he also repeated the need to balance the need of all financial institutions.
Rep. Goodlatte: He gave a tip of the hat to CUNA for helping move his patent reform legislation out of the House. He called upon credit unions to help move the bill through the Senate.
Rep. Scott: He wants financial institutions to do more to combat fraudulent card use, so that each time a criminal uses a stolen card or information, he or she is at risk of being caught. He also praised the financial education efforts of credit unions; Scott is a member of the Financial Literacy Caucus.
Rep. Cantor: He said the mission of Congress is the same as that of credit unions ... to serve the people. Addressing Congress's reputation for gridlock, Cantor said that members and parties may differ on how to achieve the common goal of wanting to afford a better future for Americans. However, "We are striving to work together," he said. He also noted that this week in the House, representatives are discussing regulatory relief legislation for financial institutions and small businesses.
Sen. Kaine: He remembered working with the state employees credit union when he was governor to create a payday lending alternative.He praised credit unions' microloan products and financial literacy counseling. He also saw Congress making progress on providing more order and certainty by producing a budget for the first time in many years, a step that should lead to more economic growth. He also said he would welcome working with credit unions who are helping military members on their financial needs.
Rep. Rigell: He reminded attendees that he is still a small businessman, retaining his car dealership while in Congress, and that as a businessman he has partnered with credit unions and "see your vallue." He said Congress has a "duty to elevate civility in the pursuit of facts." He called the "seductive call of apathy" the biggest threat to America.
Sen. Warner: While Kaine looked at the two-year budget with optimism, Warner looked at it as a reminder that sequestration could return in two years. He also warned that a 1% rise in the interest rate would add $120 billion a year in debt service. "Entitlement and tax reform is the single most important job for us," he said. He thanked credit unions for their help in the housing finance reform process, adding that even though the housing market is improving that the current Government Sponsored Enterprises cannot "stand the test of time." He warned that on the data breach issue, society is seeing the tip of the iceberg and that the retailers and card issuers need to collaborate on security. He again thanked credit unions for being "friends with me when it wasn't cool to be my friend."
Rep. Wolf: He agreed that Congress would have to deal with entitlements. He paraphrased an historian who said that when great nations decline, they decline quickly. He said America wasn't in decline yet, but was approaching economic decline. "We have to all come together on tough issues and do some pretty tough things."
Rep. Hurt: He said he was grateful for credit unions helping the constituents in his district. And while he comes from a district with much agriculture, he enjoys sitting on the House Financial Services Committee. He said that nothing government could offer could do more for the high unemployment areas in his district like Martinsville as private capital fueling job creation. Hurt is co-sponsor of the House version of GSE reform, and he noted that the House version .... known as the PATH Act ... contains regulatory relief provisions from Dodd-Frank "that should be of great benefit to your members."
League President Rick Pillow and the chairman of the League's Governmental Affairs Committee, Mike Flanary, also offered comments.
While Rep. Randy Forbes (R-4) could not make it to the Wednesday Congressional Luncheon, his new constituent, League President Rick Pillow, serendipitously ran into him in the hallway afterwards. They had a good exchange on the credit union tax exemption victory, as the House Ways & Means white paper on tax reform had just been released and did not include a proposal to repeal the credit union exemption.
Thank you to all the credit union advocates who made the luncheon a success!