MBL Battle Goes Into Overtime

Bill to expand CUs’ business lending lives while banks’ TAG bill fails.

February 25, 2013

If last year’s member business lending (MBL) fight were a football game, CUNA had the ball on the five yard line with time for one more play.

Instead of trying a Hail Mary pass—bringing the MBL legislation to a vote in the Senate—CUNA opted for a field goal, reintroducing the legislation instead of risking a vote credit unions likely would have lost.

“We kept our bill alive in overtime,” CUNA Chairman Mike Mercer said Monday during CUNA’s Annual General Meeting.

He acknowledged this wasn’t a popular call in all credit union circles. “Some people in the stands think we made the wrong call. I disagree—but I was on the field.”

A vote on the MBL bill could easily have been derailed by a procedural measure, said CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney. That’s what happened to the bank-sponsored Transaction Account Guarantee program bill in December.

Had that happened, any expansion of credit unions’ MBL capabilities would have been put on injured reserve indefinitely. “We live to fight another day,” Cheney said, “and I’m not up here explaining why we lost the vote on the floor.”

Cheney continued Mercer’s football metaphor, urging credit union leaders to “come down from the bleachers and join us on the field” by being more active in legislative and regulatory advocacy.

Cheney is optimistic about what 2013 holds for CUNA and credit unions. “2012 was a strong year for CUNA, certainly financially,” he said. “We continue to stand up for credit unions in Washington and through our league partners. And we’re working hard to train and prepare credit union staff for the future.”

Cheney outlined CUNA’s game plan for 2013:

  • Preserve, protect, and defend credit unions’ tax exemption;
  • Reduce the regulatory burden on credit unions by working closely with NCUA, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and other agencies;
  • Enhance the credit union charter by seeking access to supplemental capital and expanded MBL authority;
  • Improve CUNA’s communication; and
  • Bolster credit unions political effectiveness.

Above all, Mercer said, “When we break the huddle, we all have to execute.”