President's Perspective

Finding Real Success in Congress

The path through congressional gridlock involves smaller, more focused legislation.

April 28, 2014
Very few groups are successful these days in moving their legislation through a gridlocked Congress.
But with CUNA’s help, credit unions have been one of the few.
That’s no small feat. The 113th Congress passed fewer substantive measures than any Congress in two decades—just 55 laws compared with 63 in 2011 (which was also one of the least productive sessions in recent history).
But CUNA, our leagues, and credit unions are working together and bucking that trend. In this Congress, for the first time in 15 years the House Financial Services Committee—the primary group affecting financial institutions and credit unions—has approved two pieces of stand-alone credit union regulatory relief legislation.
That’s real success.
There’s no question that these two bills are narrow in scope. The House committee passed the first last fall. H.R. 3468 provides parity for the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. with respect to the insurance coverage of lawyer trust accounts and other similar accounts. Reps. Ed Royce, R-Calif., and Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., introduced the bill.
The committee voted 55-0 to clear the second bill this spring. H.R. 3584 would give about 100 privately insured credit unions membership eligibility in the Federal Home Loan Bank System. Reps. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, and Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, sponsored it.
This approach to moving legislation has several advantages.
Most observers have reasonably concluded that gone are the days when Congress would take up comprehensive industry-specific legislation (such as H.R. 1151—the Credit Union Membership Access Act—in 1998).
To the contrary, the path through the congressional gridlock involves smaller, more focused legislation.
CUNA identified this trend several years ago. Aft er listening to our members, we proposed focused legislation to relieve credit unions from placing redundant signage on ATMs, and avoiding costly legal challenges. Congress enacted this one-issue bill into law.
We’re using that same approach to push through Congress the privacy notification bill (which passed the House last year, and is pending in the Senate), so that credit unions won’t have to send annual privacy notifications to their members unless they change their privacy policy.
Some might suggest these bills—and those we pushed through the committee—“don’t count” because they either affect only a small number of credit unions or because they also affect banks.
But legislation that enhances credit unions’ ability to serve their members and reduces their regulatory burden is important, whether it also benefits banks or only affects a small number of credit unions. For the credit unions affected by these four pieces of legislation, the impact is important.
Success begets success. And we’re convinced that the more legislation we push through, the better the chances credit unions can return to Congress to request—and receive—more legislative success. As we’ve said many times before: This is a marathon—not a sprint.
Finally, we understand that sometimes a bill doesn’t have to become law for it to have an impact. A terrific example: the examination fairness legislation—H.R. 1553, sponsored by Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.; and S. 727, sponsored by Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan.
These bills wouldn’t even exist if credit unions didn’t express their exam concerns to Congress. While we’re certainly working for this legislation’s enactment, we also have seen the positive impact in simply having this bill in the hopper, as regulators react to the mood of Congress.
Real legislative success takes planning, persistence, and patience. Credit unions are having success now—and there’s likely more to come.