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Cheney to iHuffPoi small-biz readers Know 5 things about Capitol Hill
WASHINGTON (5/18/12)--A new column on the Huffington Post website from Credit Union National Association (CUNA) President/CEO Bill Cheney offers small business owners five suggestions for dealing with Capitol Hill and explains them in the context of the current effort to raise the cap restricting member business lending (MBL). Huffington Post is running the column just ahead of National Small Business Week, which starts Sunday. And an excerpt from the column, including a call to on the U.S. Congress to increase the MBL cap, was picked up by the San Francisco Chronicle.

"I hope the thoughts will resonate since I really come at them from two points of view: credit union trade association CEO pushing for a bill to boost our industry's small-business lending capacity, and long-time small business advocate," Cheney wrote in the Post column. The five points about Capitol Hill he called to small businesses' attention are:

  • Everyone likes to talk about supporting small business.  But, Cheney added, the reality is the U.S. Congress is not doing enough to support small businesses.  He noted how available credit to small businesses is still lagging, even as the economy has improved. Bank lending is still falling short, while current data show the credit union approval rate for small business loans is five times that of big banks (News Now, 5/11/12 ).
  • It's not all gridlock.  Cheney recognized election year partisanship makes passage of any legislation difficult, but noted bills that appeal to both sides are still getting through. "I think Sen. Mark Udall's (D-Colo.) legislation (S.2231) to expand credit unions' small business lending authority has a strong shot of making it past a filibuster this year."  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has promised a floor vote in this session on Udall's bipartisan bill, which would raise the MBL cap from 12.25% of assets to 27.5% for qualifying credit unions. CUNA, the leagues, credit unions and small businesses have been lobbying intensely for passage.
  • Congress needs to hear from small business owners. Although the banking lobby is "expending vast resources" to block the MBL bill, Congress will pay heed to small business owners, Cheney said, citing the examples of several small businessmen who took part in CUNA's small business Hike the Hill earlier this year. "The good news is that members of Congress still understand that small business owners play significant roles in their districts and that credit unions have been involved in small business lending since the early 1900s," Cheney explained. "It was only in the late 1990s that our lending was restricted, at the banks' urging."
  • Talk jobs, not just numbers.  "Job creation is on every member's mind right now," the CUNA leader noted. "That's why I personally emphasize in every meeting that raising the cap on credit union small business lending would translate into 140,000 new jobs created in just year one. It's simple really:  Issue more loans to businesses, and they'll spend more on new hiring."
  • Band together.   When lobbying an issue on Capitol Hill, it is important to have like-minded allies, Cheney advised. He noted CUNA is working with more than 30 pro-small businesses organizations in support of raising the MBL cap, from the National Association of Realtors to the National Council of Textile Organizations. "We may take different positions on (some) issues, but we all agree that the Hill can do better and make more capital available to small business owners," Cheney wrote.
These points are simple and straightforward, but they matter, he added. "If small business owners want to see more credit available, they need to keep their eye on Washington as much as their local lending institutions. Sure, organizations like mine know the ins and outs and the daily machinations of the legislative process. But a small business owner really knows what it means to support a small business."
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