NCUA Quiet As It Operates With A Board Of One

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The seventh floor at NCUA headquarters was quiet last week with NCUA Chairman Dennis Dollar completing his holiday vacation and fellow board members Yolanda Wheat and Geoff Bacino having cleaned out their offices.

Everyone was waiting for the White House to name successors to the former board members. But JoAnne Johnson, a Republican from Iowa, said she had not heard from the Bush Administration on what is expected to be a recess appointment to the three-member panel and she was continuing her work on several bills in the state Senate, which is scheduled to reconvene Jan. 14.

Johnson is expected to be named with Democrat Deborah Matz in the coming days to fill out the NCUA board.

"That's what we've been hearing," said CUNA lobbyist John McKechnie, adding that the pairing of a Republican and Democrat would ease any objections by Democratic leaders of the Senate who would be called upon to confirm either nominee to full six-year terms on the board down the road.

The NCUA board members are expected to be among a handful of recess appointments named by the Bush Administration before Congress reconvenes Jan. 23. Under a recess appointment, a candidate may serve in office until the end of the first session of the next Congress, unless confirmed by the Senate to a full term.

Wheat, the Democratic board member who rejected overtures by the White House to step aside, was fired a few days before Christmas in order to create the necessary vacancy on the board. Her reticence made Wheat the third NCUA board member in recent years to be fired by the White House after refusing to leave voluntarily. That includes former Board Members Bob Swan and Norm D'Amours, both of whom were terminated by the Clinton Administration.

Bacino, also a Democratic member of the board who was appointed just last January, had his recess appointment expire with the end of Congress and was not nominated for a full term. He was weighing his options for the future but said he expects to restart his Washington lobbying firm of Bacino & Associates.

The termination of the two terms left Dollar the lone ranger on the NCUA board. It is not clear what affect the lack of a full board will have on the board's regularly scheduled open meeting next week. Without a second board member the meeting would most likely be canceled, an NCUA source said.

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