CU advocates descend on DC
Thousands of credit union supporters from across the country poured into Washington for the annual CUNA GAC. Here's a taste of what they heard.
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Blunt reminds credit unions who's the boss
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) knew just whom he was talking to when he addressed CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference Tuesday: his bosses. “You’re the boss when you go talk to your members of Congress, don’t forget that,” he exhorted the crowd the day before the annual Hike the Hill would see some 5,000 of the credit union faithful descend on the Capitol to lobby lawmakers on CU issues. Blunt pointed to the REINS Act – Regulations from the Executive in Need in Need of Scrutiny Act – which would “put the reins” on regulators, as one way Congress could help credit unions.
U.S. Rep. Denny Heck (D-Wa.)
From credit union to Congress
U.S. Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA) knows better than most politicians what it takes to run a credit union, having worked as a teller at one years ago. Even so, Heck tried to convince credit union executives in the audience at CUNA’s GAC to see the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in a different light. “I know a lot of you don’t like the CFPB—now, wait a minute, take a breath,” he said, knowing his message might not be well received by the crowd. “But the CFPB was created to put all lenders on a level playing field. And that is to the benefit of credit unions, because NCUA holds credit unions to a higher standard than non-bank lenders.”
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Metsger recruiting the next NCUA chairman?
National Credit Union Administration Board Member Rick Metsger spent nine busy and ambitious months making the most of his short tenure as chairman of the agency, but he may have embarked on his most ambitious project yet at CUNA’s GAC: recruiting the Honorable Colin L. Powell to serve as next chairman of that agency. Knowing that the dynamic and popular former Secretary of State was speaking after him, Metsger made the most of the opportunity. “We’ve got an open seat, and we know Trump likes appointing generals, maybe we could coax Colin Powell to serve on the board,” Metsger suggested. “With him in charge, the banks would never attack!”
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Powell praises CUs' 'confidence and optimism'
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell made his second GAC appearance, and offered up an entertaining mix of stories on everything from his days as National Security Adviser to President Ronald Reagan, to the night Condoleeza Rice took over from him as President George W. Bush’s Secretary of State to practical advice on coping with retirement (buy a Corvette). Powell noted that one of the things he so enjoys about speaking gigs like the one at GAC is what he learns in the process of prepping for an engagement. “I learn so much when I’m preparing to speak to an audience,” he said. “You have taught me so much. I look out, and there’s so much confidence and optimism that I see here. I’d like to put it in a bottle and pour it over the heads of our lawmakers.”
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NCUA's self-described 'pointy-headed bureaucrat'
Referring to himself as a “pointy-headed bureaucrat,” Acting NCUA Chairman J. Mark McWatters noted how tough it is to follow Colin Powell, but he was uniquely positioned to continue to hold the GAC’s crowd’s attention as he outlined 15 issues he wishes to tackle as chairman of the credit union regulator. After thanking President Trump for elevating him to acting chairman and thanking his colleague on the board, Rick Metsger, McWatters went over his top priorities, all of which, he said, are aimed at meeting the agency’s responsibility of maintaining a safe and sound industry, while at the same time working to “slow, if not substantially stop, the machine that grinds out a relentless flow of new regulatory burdens.”
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Talking Trump
Just hours before President Trump would address Congress, two veteran politicos teamed up for a panel discussion on “Expect the Unexpected: Washington Under President Trump.” Former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, and Barry Jackson, who served as chief of staff to former House Speaker John Boehner, as well as having served as an adviser to President George W. Bush offered their insights into how Trump won the election and what to expect during his tenure. The two veteran politicos currently serve as strategic advisers at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP. Noting his own status as a veteran Beltway politics insider, Jackson said of the election result, “the American people were sick of us. It wasn’t the revolt of the angry, uneducated white guy.” That anger and distrust of insiders, Jackson said, allowed Trump to paint himself as a rich outsider who couldn’t be bought by special interests running against another “politics-as-usual” insider, Hillary Clinton. Begich agreed, adding that Trump’s “Make America Great Again” message was “an aspirational moment” that played to what is, he said, the most aspirational country on earth.

(From left: CUNA’s Ryan Donovan, former Sen. Mark Begich and Barry Jackson).