WASHINGTON (3/10/09)—Unable to complete consideration of the FY 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act last week, the U.S. Congress passed a continuing resolution through March 11 to keep the government going. The Senate resumed consideration of the spending bill Monday and is expected to cast its final vote on it Wednesday. Important to credit unions, the legislation includes language that removes a cap on the Central Liquidity Facility lending authority through Sept. 30. The appropriations bill also includes language to expand the mortgage lending rule-making authority of the Federal Trade Commission, a move that is opposed by the Credit Union National Association (CUNA). A CUNA-supported amendment to strip this provision from the spending bill was withdrawn last week, but only after key lawmakers agreed to address this issue on the next available piece of legislation. CUNA also continued to work on the Senate side on compromise language to H.R. 1106, the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, approved 234-191 in the House. This legislation includes language permitting bankruptcy courts to modify the terms of loans secured by a debtor's principal residence, and CUNA strongly advocates a narrowing of the courts’ “cramdown” authority. H.R. 1106, however, also includes language that would make permanent the $250,000 share and deposit insurance limit. It also would extend the amount of time the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) has to replenish its share insurance fund when it drops before 1%, and would increase the NCUA borrowing authority. Those provisions have CUNA’s strong support. Also of note, Reps. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.) and Ed Royce (R-Calif.) continue to design a House bill comparable to Senate legislation being drafted by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), to lift the cap on credit union member business lending. Last week Schumer announced his intention to introduce legislation raising the MBL cap as a way to provide additional credit to America's small businesses. Schumer said that credit unions have a long track record of scrutinizing borrowers, and have low delinquencies as a result. "Because deposits have been on the rise as people move their savings from the stock market to savings accounts, (credit unions) have cash on hand to loan to small businesses," he noted. The current MBL cap is set at 12.25% of assets. CUNA estimates that credit unions could lend $10 billion to small businesses in the first year after the cap is lifted.