Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Lawmakers send assurances to CUs

WASHINGTON (4/9/08)—The chairman of the House Financial Services Committee and a high-ranking Republican member of that panel have each sent credit unions their assurances that Congress values the unique role of financial services cooperatives.

Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.), in a letter to the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), wrote that the U.S. Congress appreciates the role credit unions play in the country's financial services system.

Frank acknowledged CUNA's concerns regarding the devastating affect the U.S. Treasury Department's proposal for financial institution regulatory restructuring could have on credit unions. He said that any proposal to do away with credit unions is a proposal that will go nowhere.

The chairman first stated his reassurance to credit unions at last week's hearing on the Internet Gambling law, at which CUNA witness Harriet May testified. May is CEO of GECU, El Paso, Texas.

Frank said to May, "Please tell my good friend and former colleague Mr. Mica not to worry about the Treasury proposal to eliminate credit unions. We would never do that. So please tell him not to worry about that."

In his April 3 letter, Frank expanded his thoughts: "(G)iven the appreciation Member of Congress have of the role that credit unions play, there is no chance of anything that would diminish that role going through.

"Indeed, as you know, we have worked closely with you on legislation that will to some extent expand the ability of credit unions to serve consumers."

He said that, while Congress may not stand ready to give credit unions all they seek, "I can assure you that it is expansion and not contraction that will be on our agenda for credit unions in the future."

On April 7, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who is the ranking member on the House Financial Services subcommittee on domestic and international monetary policy, trade, and technology, wrote similar assurances to the Texas CU League.

Paul wrote that he opposes a provision in the Treasury's plan which would eliminate the credit union charter and the independent federal credit union regulator.

"Eliminating separate charters for credit unions, banks, and thrifts could deny the benefits of credit union membership to million of Americans," Paul wrote.

He added that he would "do all I can to make sure this provision, or any other regulatory change detrimental to the interests of credit unions" is not contained in any regulatory legislation considered by the 110th Congress.

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