With Congress’s Easter recess looming, legislators have until midnight Friday, Mar. 23, to pass a massive spending bill to keep the government running. In other words, credit union priorities may have to take a back seat.

According to Jacqueline Ramsay, VP of media relations and communications at the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions, if lawmakers spend too much time on the spending bill – otherwise known as the omnibus bill – regulatory relief could be delayed by several weeks. While Congress reached a deal in January to fund the government for two years, those funds have not yet been appropriated to agency projects.

In the meantime, credit unions this week are keeping an eye on the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, which passed the Senate last week and is now headed to the House, where House Financial Services Committee Chair Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) aims to put his stamp on it.

“I want to congratulate Chairman Crapo and the Senate for putting together and passing a package of helpful bipartisan banking bills,” Hensarling said in a statement. “I look forward to combining them with our helpful House bipartisan banking bills and getting that combined bill to the President’s desk. We must provide much needed regulatory relief to our community financial institutions so they can help finance homes, cars, small businesses, and our constituents’ American dreams.”

U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas)
U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas)

Eli Joseph, chief advocacy officer for congressional relations at the Credit Union National Association, said the trade group will also closely be following this week’s developments regarding SBA 7(a) funding and CDFI funding in the spending bill.

Beyond reg relief and government spending, interest rates are likely to dominate conversations for much of the week. The Federal Open Market Committee begins a two-day meeting tomorrow and is expected to approve another quarter-point interest rate hike. The committee last raised the federal funds target rate by a quarter-point in December to a range of 1.25 to 1.5 percent.

According to Curt Long, NAFCU’s chief economist and VP of research, February’s jobs report kept the Federal Reserve on track to raise rates this month.

During the FOMC's December meeting, the committee projected three quarter-point rate hikes this year. However, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell indicated to the House Financial Services Committee in testimony last month that there may be as many as four rate increases this year – one per quarter.

This week’s hearings
Legislators also have a number of hearings of interest to credit unions scheduled this week.

Tuesday:

  • The House Financial Services Subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit Finance will hold a hearing titled “Exploring the Financial Nexus of Terrorism, Drug Trafficking, and Organized Crime.”

Wednesday:

  • The House Financial Services Committee will mark up a series of bills including the “Ensuring Quality Unbiased Access to Loans Act of 2018” and “Small Bank Exam Cycle Improvement Act of 2018,” among others.
  • The House Small Business Committee will hold a hearing titled “American Infrastructure and the Small Business Perspective.”
  • The Senate Budget Committee will receive the president’s economic report.

Thursday:

  • Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson will testify before the Senate Banking Committee about oversight at HUD.