WASHINGTON (12/22/09)--A bill to increase credit union member business lending (MBL) to 25% of assets was introduced Monday in the Senate by Sens. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Kirsten Gillebrand (D-N.Y.). The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) strongly supports the measure, S 2919. CUNA President/CEO Dan Mica offered credit unions’ “sincere thanks” to the senators, saying the lawmakers’ action acknowledges “that credit unions can be a significant part of the solution for helping the economy." Similar bipartisan legislation, also backed by CUNA, was introduced in the House last July by Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.) and Ed Royce (R-Calif.). While the MBL issue will carry into 2010, Mica still emphasized that, "Time is of the essence; with this action, House leaders should recognize that increased capacity for credit union business lending has legs--despite cynical banker opposition. The House should now begin moving its bill through the legislative process as soon as possible." The House bill, known as Promoting Lending to America’s Small Businesses Act (H.R. 3380), would also raise the “de minimis” threshold for a loan to be considered a member business loan to $250,000, and exempt loans made to non-profit religious organizations as well as loans made in qualified underserved areas from the cap. The Senate bill features the former provision, but not the latter. The bill was introduced in the Senate the same month as President Barack Obama met with bankers to urge them to loosen unnecessary restrictions on credit to help the economy recover. CUNA has long advocated lifting the member business lending cap for credit unions, but even more vehemently so as lending from banks and other sources has shrunk during the country’s economic downturn. CUNA estimates that the higher business lending authority could provide $10 billion in new small business loans and at least 108,000 new jobs. A joint U.S. Treasury-Small Business Administration report, submitted following President Obama's recent White House jobs summit, included increased credit union business lending as part of a long list of possible job-stimulus initiatives that came out of that meeting. CUNA’s Mica has noted that the only lobbyists opposed to increased MBL powers are those representing the banking industry. "These are the same players who accepted billions of dollars of taxpayer money and now are restricting access to credit for consumers and small businesses.” Among those who have voiced public support for lifting the cap are the National Association of Realtors; National Cooperative Business Association; Americans for Tax Reform, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Ford Motor Minority Dealer Association, League of United Latin American Citizens, Manufactured Housing Institute, National Association for the Self Employed, National Association of Mortgage Brokers, National Cooperative Grocers Association, National Farmers Union, National Small Business Association, NCB Capital Impact, the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents, National Association of Manufacturers, National Council of Textile Organizations, and Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers.