CUNA President/CEO Jim Nussle
CUNA President/CEO Jim Nussle

A divided government, an opportunity for bipartisanship

We have champions on both coasts and everywhere in between.

February 7, 2019

“Washington is broken.”

We hear this on TV and the radio, in the newspaper, and from our friends and family. It seems that with every election comes dizzying predictions about how little will get done and how difficult the path ahead will be for reasonable, bipartisan solutions to our problems.

I know the challenges firsthand as a former member of Congress. But I also know that political roadblocks are nothing new, and it’s in times like these where the credit union movement actually has an opportunity.

Credit unions are bipartisan. We don’t choose to be bipartisan—it’s just what we are.

Our issues don’t fall neatly inside the political divide. They cut across red and blue, and have champions on both coasts and everywhere in between.

It may sound too good to be true, but it’s one of our biggest strengths and it unites all of us in the credit union movement.

Still not convinced? Let me prove it to you.

According to Pew Research, the partisan gap on the president’s job approval rating is at an all-time high, more than doubling since 1994. Since 2015, votes on amendments with bipartisan majority support in the House have been at their lowest rates over the last 20 years.

And more than half of Americans say it’s generally stressful and frustrating to talk about politics with someone who has different political views.

‘Our 2019 priorities are primed for bipartisan support.’

Yet, in 2018 Congress passed the bipartisan Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (S. 2155)—a critical piece of legislation to our industry.

Twelve Democrats and 13 Republicans sponsored the bill, and it passed by large majorities in both the House and Senate before President Trump signed it into law.

S. 2155 enacts common-sense regulatory reform, protects seniors from elder abuse, streamlines mortgage processing, increases affordable rental housing, and helps credit unions provide better services to members. But the legislation also showed that our lawmakers can still find common ground on bipartisan issues.

Beyond S.2155 we also gained support for fewer CFPB rulemakings, better transparency and modernizations at NCUA, delayed implementation of the current expected credit losses standard, and removing a harmful provision from the National Defense Authorization Act. We also stand with credit unions facing frivolous lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act and secured funding for several important community funds.

Plus, our industry stepped up to assist workers furloughed by the partial government shutdown. Many credit unions provided short-term, low-interest loans and other relief measures to help people manage without a paycheck. This is a great example of how credit unions serve members, and it shows our ability to help when our lawmakers disappoint us.

CUNA News Podcast

Ryan Donovan outlines CUNA’s 2019 legislative priorities.

Credit unions have long found common ground. We appeal to both sides because our 115 million members are constituents of every congressional office.

We offer Americans the opportunity to take charge of their financial futures and do more with their money. Our cooperative nature and affordable services are universally appealing no matter your tax bracket or ZIP code.

The 116th Congress is divided, and there will certainly be many tug of wars across the aisle. But if we take our message to Congress effectively we can be successful.

Our 2019 priorities are primed for bipartisan support. We’ll pursue regulatory relief from the CFPB, common-sense NCUA reforms, Bank Secrecy Act modernization, expanded data security regulations for merchants, fewer restrictive privacy regulations, and the enactment of Federal Credit Union Act Modernization legislation. And we’ll also work to educate members on the credit union tax status.

Over many years, we have worked to gain champions throughout Capitol Hill and in administrations. We have many credit union advocates that have supported our issues time and again, and we’re all looking forward to growing relationships with the new faces of the 116th Congress.

We have already begun this effort through our federal political action committee, the Credit Union Legislative Action Council, where midterm giving had a 90% success rate, adding new champions to Congress’ most diverse freshman class.

We are bipartisan. And we choose to see divided government as bipartisan government.

We’re not blind to the challenges, but we’re confident we can succeed no matter who is in power.

JIM NUSSLE is president/CEO of CUNA.