Week ahead: Presidential debates and congressional battles

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With five weeks until the election, “this should be the last week of Congress — except that it’s not going to be the last week,” said Ryan Donovan, chief advocacy officer at the Credit Union National Association.

That’s because a slew of competing priorities are driving parties in both chambers to stay in Washington — or remain on call to return — past when lawmakers would normally be back home campaigning.

With President Trump having nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, the Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled confirmation hearings to begin two weeks from now, with a full Senate vote expected before the end of the month. Similarly, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has told members of that chamber they will remain in session until a final coronavirus-relief bill is settled, though Donovan suggested that likely means they’ll be on notice to return to Washington within 24 or 48 hours in the event of any sort of deal.

Though it’s unclear whether any COVID relief bill will make it into law before the election, credit unions have a significant amount riding on the hopes that one does. Industry groups continue to lobby for the extension of several provisions from two previous relief bills, including extending changes to the National Credit Union Administration’s Central Liquidity Facility, forgiveness for Paycheck Protection Program loans and technical corrections related to payroll tax credits for federal credit unions.

Credit union groups are also watching for progress on a continuing resolution to fund the federal government into mid-December. A House bill passed last week “with strong bipartisan support,” according to the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions, and includes provisions such as aid for farmers, $8 billion for pandemic-related nutrition assistance and an extension of the National Flood Insurance Program through the third quarter of next year.

Some of the week’s biggest news could come on Tuesday night, when Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden meet for the first of three scheduled presidential debates. Banking matters are not expected to show up prominently in the debates — if they come up at all — but a new study from Arizent, the parent company of Credit Union Journal, American banker and other brands, shows the financial services industry overwhelmingly wants to see the president in office for another four years.

In other election news, the Credit Union National Association is expected to announce a series of advertising expenditures this week highlighting House races for candidates and incumbents supportive of the industry. Last week CUNA “launched major seven-figure investments in four key Senate races,” said Trey Hawkins, CUNA's VP of political affairs. Those include Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich., Tina Smith, R-Minn., Steve Daines, R-Mont., and, most notably, Susan Collins, R-Maine. Collins' race is one of the highest-profile Senate campaigns this election, and picking up that seat is critical to Democrats' hopes to retake the Senate.

“This is something we do every cycle but are particularly leaning in to this cycle,” said Hawkins.

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