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In Congress: April 29 McWatters and GSE reform votes, May 1 for patent reform
WASHINGTON (4/28/14)--As the U.S. Congress returns to session this week after a two-week district work period, several key credit union items are on the agenda: Mark-ups of housing finance and patent reform bills are likely to be on the schedule, and a confirmation vote on J. Mark McWatters' nomination to join the National Credit Union Administration is also expected.

The Senate Banking Committee markup of housing finance reform legislation has been scheduled for April 29, and while there have been weeks of speculation about a delay of the vote, as of late Friday the date remained steady.  A revised version of reform legislation, known as Johnson-Crapo  after the senators who authored it, could be released today or tomorrow.

As it stands, the bill 425-page draft bill takes significant steps to ensure that credit unions will continue to have access to a functioning, well-regulated, well-capitalized secondary mortgage market. The bill seeks to overhaul the housing finance market and address the issues created by the current government ownership of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The Credit Union National Association has advocated for credit union priorities on several fronts, including meetings with White House officials, Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Mel Watt and members of Congress. CUNA has encouraged policymakers to be mindful of the existing regulatory burdens of credit unions and other mortgage servicers as discussions on housing finance reform proceed. Legislators and other officials must proceed judiciously and not layer additional regulatory authority on top of existing regulatory regimes that address mortgage servicing, CUNA has said. 

CUNA has also emphasized that a new system must ensure that the housing finance market remains accessible to credit unions and other smaller institutions and that structure must be in place to prohibit domination by the country's biggest banks.

Also on this week's radar--McWatters' nomination will also be voted on during a Tuesday April 29 executive session of the Senate Banking Committee.  The panel will also vote on the Federal Reserve nominations of Stanley Fischer, Jerome Powell and Lael Brainard. The committee will also consider Gustavo Aguilar's nomination to be an assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Also important to credit unions, the Senate Judiciary Committee's bill is scheduled to vote May 1 on its Patent Transparency and Improvements Act (S. 1720), which, in part, would aid credit unions and other businesses that have been targeted by patent "trolls," who manipulate the patent system for their own gain. The markup is scheduled to occur during a May 1 committee executive session.

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