WASHINGTON-Congressional credit union supporters are seeking a way to get the member business loan measure through Congress in the final days of this year's session, with the chances of an up-or-down vote on the bill itself fading fast.

Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), who is in line to be the next chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, all but conceded the death of the bill during remarks at NAFCU's annual Congressional Caucus, saying the increase in the MBL limit will "need to come around next year," which would be the six straight Congress to consider the bill.

But U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), one of the co-sponsors of the bill in the House, said he and other credit union supporters still hope the increase in the MBL limit could be passed this year by attaching it to a broader bill more likely to be voted, such as jobs legislation or the Transaction Account Guarantee-TAG-a bill backed by the bankers that would extend the federal guarantee of interest on non-interest bearing checking accounts.

"From a policy perspective, it might have more salability as part of a bigger package," Sherman told the Credit Union Journal this morning after speaking at the NAFCU conference. This strategy, he suggested, could give the bankers what they want, the TAG bill, and maybe convince the banking lobby to lift its opposition to the MBL hike.

The urgency is growing daily, with Congress scheduled to recess in another week for the elections. This strategy extends the chance of the bill getting passed even after Congress returns after Congress adjourns next week to after the elections when lawmakers return for a brief session, known as a lame-duck session.


NCUA Efforts Outpace Congress

Whatever Congress does is rapidly being overtaken by events at NCUA, which said yesterday it approved 553 federally chartered credit unions in the last month as low-income credit unions, thereby exempting them from the MBL limit and other NCUA rules.

Among them are some of the biggest credit unions in the country, like $2.3 billion Michigan State University FCU; $1.5 billion Polish & Slavic FCU; $1.4 billion Kern Schools FCU; $1.5 billion GTE FCU; $1.1 billion Local Government Employees FCU; $1.1 billion Tyndall FCU; and $1.1 billion Barksdale FCU. Also, Fresno County FCU ($470 million); Purdue FCU ($740 million); Financial Community FCU ($685 million) Crane FCU ($400 million); Y-12 FCU ($630 million); AltaOne FCU ($560 million); Deseret First FCU ($420 million); and Greater Texas FCU ($520 million).

And state regulators said this week at the annual NASCUS conference they plan to adopt a similar initiative as NCUA to enable more state chartered credit unions to qualify as low-income and the MBL exemption.

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