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Levin to serve as House Ways and Means chair

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WASHINGTON (3/5/10)--Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.) will take on chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee after House Democrats on Thursday elected to remove Rep. Pete Stark's (D-Calif.) name from consideration. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, of California, on Wednesday announced that Stark would fill the chairmanship on an interim basis as Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) takes a leave of absence from the panel. In a Thursday release, Levin said that he looks forward to "moving vigorously" on the Ways and Means Committee agenda, which includes "job creation, economic development, and health care." Moving on this agenda "means working collaboratively with Democrats on the Committee and the entire caucus, with Congressional leadership and the Obama Administration," Levin added. Levin, who signed on in support the Credit Union Regulatory Improvements Act in 2006 and has supported the tax status of federal credit unions during his time on the committee, has been a long-standing friend of the credit union movement. Levin was also among several candidates that were endorsed by the Michigan Credit Union League board of directors in 2006. Credit Union National Association Senior Vice President of Legislative Affairs John Magill said that CUNA "looks forward to a continued good working relationship" with Levin, "not only in Washington but with the leagues back in Michigan."

SBA to resume loans after temp. extender is signed

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WASHINGTON (3/5/10)--The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has announced that it will be able to resume Recovery Act loans on March 10 after President Obama on Tuesday signed temporary funding legislation. The funding, which has been extended until March 28, "will support about $1.8 billion in small business lending," according to the SBA. New approvals of eligible loans with the higher guarantee and reduced fees made possible by the Recovery Act are expected to resume on March 10. "Loan applications from borrowers in SBAs Recovery Loan Queue will be funded first, followed by new loan applications," the SBA said. In a Thursday release, Small Business Administrator Karen Mills said that the SBA will "continue working with the President and with Congress to move forward with proposals for a longer extension" of the loan programs that have been successful in helping jump-start the economic recovery for Americas small businesses. H.R. 4691, the "Temporary Extension Act of 2010," extends funding for the National Flood Insurance Program, Stimulus Act small business loan guarantee programs, federal unemployment insurance, COBRA benefits, and other select federal programs. The SBA said that H.R. 4691 "does not affect other SBA Recovery Act programs, including the Americas Recovery Capital loan program" or microloans. H.R. 4213, which would extend flood insurance and small business provisions through the end of 2010, could be voted on this week.

Inside Washington (03/04/2010)

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* WASHINGTON (3/5/10)--The Treasury Department has released more details about how a proposed Volcker rule, named after former Fed chair Paul Volcker, would affect proprietary trading and cap financial institution size. The Obama administration wants to limit banks from holding more than 10% of the industry’s net liabilities (American Banker March 4). The curb would apply when a bank tries to acquire more institutions. The details released by the Treasury also defined proprietary trading as purchasing or selling, or acquiring or disposing of stocks, bonds, options, commodities, derivatives or other financial instruments for the company’s trading, not on behalf of a customer, for marketing-making activities or for facilitating a customer relationship ... * WASHINGTON (3/5/10)--Financial industry observers worry that lawmakers’ concerns over how to regulate consumer protection would actually leave holes in consumer protection plans and result in an uneven the playing field between banks and nonbanks. The latest proposal would create a division of the Federal Reserve Board that would write rules for all lenders but would have no enforcement or authority over nonbanks--such as payday lenders and check cashers (American Banker March 4). Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, questioned how lawmakers could create a consumer protection agency to regulate bank and nonbank products while not giving the authority to enforce rules against predatory products. The proposal is being discussed by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) ... * WASHINGTON (3/5/10)--“Saturday Night Live” comedians and veterans performed in a sketch that promoted the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency and was posted on Wednesday. The sketch, directed by Ron Howard, features President Obama, played by Fred Armisen, dreaming about the proposed agency with appearances from six former U.S. presidents. The presidents, played by actors including Will Ferrell, Dana Carvey, Darrell Hammond, Dan Aykroyd, Jim Carrey and Chevy Chase, encourage Obama to enact the agency. At the opening of the sketch, Obama said that he wants to enact a consumer protection agency to protect consumers, and “lobbyists and Sen. [Richard] Shelby [R-Ala.] act like I want to change the national anthem.” The sketch’s actors also noted that banks and credit card companies are “ripping off” consumers ...

MBL drafters continue push for more support

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WASHINGTON (3/5/10)--In a letter circulated on Wednesday, Reps. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.) and Ed Royce (R-Calif.), the architects of H.R. 3380, which would increase the cap on member business lending for credit unions to 25%, continued to urge their House colleagues' to support the measure, saying that it makes "real economic and fiscal sense to enhance credit unions' ability to lend to their business-owning members." The legislation would also raise the "de minimis" threshold for member business loans to $250,000. Several trade groups, including the National Association of Realtors, the National Small Business Association, and the National Association of Mortgage Brokers, on Wednesday joined the chorus of supporters that are behind lifting the cap on member business lending (MBL) for credit unions by co-signing the letter. In the letter, Kanjorski and Royce cited Credit Union National Association estimates which predict that lifting the MBL cap would inject $10 billion in new capital into the economy and create as many as 100,000 new jobs at no cost to taxpayers. According to Kanjorski and Royce, "allowing credit unions to extend loans to credit-starved small businesses will add fuel to a self-sustaining economic expansion." "Congress just needs to flip on the switch," they added. Kanjorski and Royce also communicated the need for MBL support in a dear colleague letter earlier this week. That letter was signed by 58 members of the House. Individual small businessowners have also recently called on Congress to support increasing the member business lending cap by writing to their congressional representatives directly.