WASHINGTON — A proposed Senate bill would open up NCUA's budget process to public review.

Two U.S. Senators — Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.). — introduced the National Credit Union Administration Budget Transparency Act on Tuesday in a rare display of bi-partisan cooperation.

The Senate version follows H.R. 1176, which was introduced in the House of Representatives in March by Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.).

The Senate bill would amend the Federal Credit Union Act to require NCUA to make a copy of its draft operating budget publicly available and printed in the Federal Register.

The legislation would also require the regulator to provide notice of a public hearing, conduct a hearing and allow the public to submit comments on the budget.

Late last year, NCUA newest Board Member Mark McWatters said the agency should consider public budget meetings.

"The public should get the chance to submit written comments and make statements at our meetings," McWatters said at the November board meeting. "It might make the process more cumbersome, but it would also be more inclusive and transparent."

A NCUA spokesman said Tuesday that Chairman Debbie Matz "strongly opposes the bill," as it would undermine the independence of the agency and lead to regulatory capture.

"No other financial institutions regulator is subject to an annual budget hearing requirement or conducts such a hearing," the spokesman said.

But both major credit union trade associations support the bill, and issued press releases within one minute of each other hailing the legislation's introduction.

"NAFCU thanks Sens. Heller and Warner for their bi-partisan leadership in seeking to create a more open and transparent NCUA. Requiring NCUA to hold public budget hearings is a simple, common-sense practice that will help give credit unions the voice they deserve in the process," said Dan Berger, president and CEO of the National Association of Federal Credit Unions. "NAFCU will continue to support efforts to enhance budget transparency at the agency."

Jim Nussle, president and CEO of CUNA, said: "The NCUA is funded by credit unions and their more than 100 million members; it makes perfect sense that the agency should be transparent with its budget. I thank Sens. Heller and Warner for their leadership on this issue and hope this legislation comes to a vote in both chambers."

-Victoria Finkle contributed reporting to this article.

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