Senate Seeks Compromise On Debit Bid As Votes Still Short

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WASHINGTON – Chief sponsors of a bill to delay the cuts in debit fees were still searching for a compromise this morning as they appeared to be short of the 60 Senate votes necessary to pass the delay.

Senate majority leaders who oppose the delay are ready to allow the vote, knowing that the 60 votes needed to overcome their own filibuster of the bid are still elusive, even after Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow agreed Monday to change her “yes” vote of last May to cut the fees, to a vote to delay.

Illinois Senator Richard Durbin, the Senate Majority Whip, has vowed to filibuster the bid to delay the debit cuts, meaning its supporters will need 60 votes to pass the delay. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said he will allow the vote, even though he will vote against the delay.

The stakes in the controversy are enormous, with credit unions and banks earning $20 billion in debit fees, about $2.5 billion of it going to credit unions.

“This is a big political issue … you might say it’s a multibillion-dollar issue, because each month in America, over $1.3 billion is collected from customers all across America when they swipe their debit cards. Where does the money go?” Durbin asked on the Senate floor Monday. “Most of it goes to the biggest banks on Wall Street, the same banks that were just moaning and groaning a few years ago that they needed a bailout because they made some big mistakes. They’re back again.”

Meantime, the leading Senate supporters of the bill, Democrat Jon Tester of Montana and Republican Robert Corker of Tennessee, have apparently agreed to reduce the delay from the proposed 15 months to six months, in order to seek more Senate votes.

The measure, which credit unions and banks say would reduce debit fees–even for those exempt from the rule–by 80%, is scheduled to take effect July 21.

Even if the Congress fails to delay the cuts the credit unions and banks can still hope that a federal appeals court hearing their case will agree to halt the cuts.


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