Republican Filibuster Keeps CU Hopes Alive For Member Business Loan Bid

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WASHINGTON – Senate Republicans finally succeeded in stopping a vote on a Democratic-sponsored bill yesterday, leaving the door open – if only slightly – for credit unions to get an amendment attached to the small business lending bill that would raise the limits on member business loans.

The filibuster prevented the Senate’s democratic majority from voting the bill, leaving additional time for the credit union lobby to argue for addition of a proposal that would raise the MBL limit from the current 12.25% of assets to as much as 27.5%.

The filibuster means Senate Democrats could pull the bill from the floor and try again in September, according to one credit union lobbyist.

Under Senate rules, one party can stop debate on a bill with 41 votes, meaning the other party needs at least 60 votes to overcome the maneuver, known as a filibuster. Yesterday’s vote was 58-to-42, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid voting against at the last minute, a parliamentary step that allows him to call for a revote at any point.

The Republicans said they oppose the bill because of the cost, as it would provide $12 billion in tax breaks and other subsidies to small businesses and $30 billion in funds that would be invested in community banks for lending to small businesses. Ironically, the banks succeeded in getting the funding inserted in the bill as they were fighting to keep the credit union provision out – even though the credit union MBL amendment would not cost any money.

The Republicans opposed the bill en masse even though the measure has the support of strong Republican allies, including the U. S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business. Several Republican lawmakers also helped write it.

Credit union lobbyists say even if the bill passes the Senate without the MBL amendment they could still persuade the House to add it when the bill moves back to the House for final passage. But the Senate is their best bet, they agree. “The Senate remains the option,” said Dan Berger, chief lobbyist for NAFCU.

The successful Republican filibuster comes after the Republicans have failed in several other blocking efforts in recent weeks, including efforts to filibuster the bank reform bill, that eventually were overcome by the Democrats to pass the bill.

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