A lopsided vote
In addition to grassroots efforts, credit unions made key congressional alliances.
“Credit unions won this legislation because of the groundwork we did politically,” McKechnie says.
Georgia Credit Union Affiliates leaders gained support early from Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), ensuring he knew the benefits of credit unions.
“Gingrich was Speaker of the House at that time,” McKechnie says. “It’s rare for Speakers to sponsor legislation. But he went to a credit union conference before the legislation was introduced and announced he was going to co-sponsor the bill. It sent a message to the rest of the House that it was OK to support the bill.”
The message got through.
On April 1, 1998, the House voted to pass H.R. 1151 by a vote of 411-8, and the Senate passed the bill 92-6 on July 28, 1998. Five months after the Supreme Court decision, President Bill Clinton signed H.R. 1151 into law.
The law allows credit unions to have multiple bonds among their member-owners.
Twenty years later, Schaefer and other credit union executives say the fight continues.
“The banking industry and their trade associations will continue to try to disadvantage credit unions and our members. We have to be vigilant and aggressive in defending what we have, and then we have to continually demand the right to modernize credit unions so we can more effectively serve members,” says Schaefer. “H.R. 1151 was about the banking industry wanting us to go back to 1934.”
The key to fighting off future bank attacks is remaining committed to mission, according to Schaefer.
“We have to continually prove how we serve our members so they can’t lock us in,” says Schaefer. “If we never forget that, the future is bright for us and for our member-owners.”