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Removing Barriers Blog

What Congressional Organizational Elections Mean for Credit Unions
Posted December 04, 2016 by Ryan Donovan

Our attention and focus for the better part of the last 18 months has been centered rightfully on the presidential and congressional elections, but elections for key leadership positions in Congress have taken place in just the last two weeks.  The outcome of these races can have a significant impact on our ability to advance of advocacy agenda.

While Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) was not formally challenged for reelection, his return to the top spot in the House of Representatives ensures credit unions have a strong supporter of the credit union tax status leading the chamber.  On the Democratic side, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) survived a challenge from Representative Tim Ryan (D-OH), but made several concessions that could open up new leadership positions for credit union leaders in the future.

With most of the remaining leadership in both parties returning to their current roles, we paid close attention to the outcome of several down ballot races.  Democrats, for example, elected Representative Linda Sanchez (D-CA) to serve as Vice Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus in a razor close election over Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA).  Both Sanchez and Lee are strong credit union supporter; however, Sanchez has become a vocal supporter of the credit union tax status in her position on the House Ways and Means Committee.

Speaking of the Ways and Means Committee, current Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI) stepped aside from his top spot on the committee.  In doing so, he appeared to set up a contested election between Representatives Richard Neal (D-MA) and Xavier Becerra (D-CA).  However, California Governor Jerry Brown (D) tapped Becerra to be California attorney general, replacing Senator-elect Kamala Harris (D-CA).  This move leaves Neal, who has demonstrated a strong understanding of the credit union difference, a clear shot at the top Democratic seat on Ways and Means.

Republicans had their share of noteworthy down ballot elections, but one to which we paid particularly close attention was an election for the top seat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has joint jurisdiction over data breach legislation.  Representatives Greg Walden (R-OR) and John Shimkus (R-IL) faced each other in a race to succeed term-limited Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), with Walden prevailing.  Walden is a credit union supporter and has worked closely with the Northwest Credit Union Association.  Late in this term, he held a subcommittee hearing on reauthorizing the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and we have found him to be receptive to our concerns regarding merchant data breach.

With most of the House Committee chairs and ranking members having been determined, subcommittee leadership will be flushed out in the coming days and weeks.  These decisions are important, just like the down ballot elections mentioned above, because they help set up the next group of committee leaders.  We will be following these decisions closely and eager to work with the new leaders.