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Senate subc. CLF cap vote could include interchange issues
WASHINGTON (6/8/09)—The Senate Appropriations subcommittee on financial services and general government later today is expected to take up the Financial Services Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2010. A similar bill that was expected to pass the House last night, as currently written, would not cap the borrowing authority of the National Credit Union Administration’s (NCUA) Central Liquidity Facility (CLF), allowing the CLF to maintain its maximum amount of $40 billion through the 2010 fiscal year. Portions of the bill would also increase funding for the U.S. Treasury Department’s Community Development Financial Institutions fund and the U.S. Small Business Administration’s business loan account. There is speculation that Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) could use this bill as a platform for legislation that would impose government limits on the interchange fee rates set for credit and debit card processing. Early last month, Durbin introduced S. 1212, The Credit Card Fair Fee Act, which would establish a full-time panel of three Electronic Payment System Judges to intervene in disputes between card service providers and merchants regarding fees set for use of the electronic payments system. This panel would also be granted the power to determine access rates and terms and to impose civil money penalties on any party that is deemed to be out of compliance with its authorities. Similar legislation offered by Reps. John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) and Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), known as H.R. 2695, the "Credit Card Fair Fee Act of 2009," would permit merchants to negotiate interchange fees with financial institutions via an antitrust exemption. However, under the terms of this bill, credit unions that fall under the NCUA’s regulatory authority, as well as other financial institutions with under $1 billion in total assets, would be exempted from the terms of the bill. H.R. 2695 has been referred to committee, but no further action had been taken at press time. The Credit Union National Association has consistently opposed any changes to the existing interchange fee system, and last month asked members of Congress to delay any legislative action until the results of the Government Accountability Office’s study of interchange fees can be fully analyzed. Reps. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) and Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) also recently urged their Republican colleagues not to cosponsor interchange legislation. (See related story: House members urge opposition to interchange cap News Now June 29.)


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