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Credit Union Lending

Sen. Mark Udall

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Madam President, I urge the Senate to free up capital for small businesses to allow them to grow, expand, and begin hiring again. Unfortunately, there is a burdensome Federal regulation that currently limits the number of small business loans credit unions can make to family entrepreneurs. Credit unions have money to lend, and they know small businesses in their communities. They know these businesses desperately wanted to jump-start the economy by taking out new loans to grow their companies and hire more workers.

Two weeks ago I came to the floor to ask consideration of a bipartisan amendment, No. 242, which I offered to the underlying bill to raise this cap I have alluded to on small business loans. The amendment would simply get government out of the way and allow credit unions to increase small business lending in their communities without costing American taxpayers a dime.

I wish to repeat that. It would not cost American taxpayers a single dime.

When I spoke previously in support of this amendment and asked for the amendment to be considered, the chairman of the Small Business Committee, Senator Landrieu, objected to my request and indicated that Senator Johnson, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, opposed the amendment. I wish to clear up some misinformation the American people may have heard at that time and thank Senator Landrieu for removing from the Congressional Record her assertion that Chairman Johnson opposed my amendment.

I understand that as new chairman of the Banking Committee, Senator Johnson has an interest in revisiting this legislation which I negotiated with the Treasury Department, the National Credit Union Administration, and the previous chairman of the Banking Committee, Senator Chris Dodd. But I wish to make it clear in the Congressional Record that Chairman Johnson does not in fact oppose the amendment.

I also wish to clear up some confusion related to the $30 billion small business lending fund established as a part of the Small Business Jobs Act which arose when I tried to call up my amendment 2 weeks ago. As I pointed out in my original remarks, banks were given access to the small business lending fund, but credit unions have not been allowed to expand their small business lending because of the very cap on loans my amendment addresses.

In our discussion on the Senate floor, it was pointed out to me that credit unions had been asked if they wanted to participate in the small business lending fund, but the credit union industry had turned down the invitation. I was unaware of such an offer; I appreciate being told of it. But unlike many banks, most credit unions do not need extra capital in order to make loans, which is what the small business lending fund intended to provide. Rather, as I have said, most credit unions currently have capital to lend to small businesses, but, unfortunately, they are being prevented from making those loans due to the arbitrary cap limiting their small business lending to no more than 12.25 percent of their assets.

It is no wonder credit unions didn't have an interest in the $30 billion bank fund because they don't need the money and couldn't use it anyway because of this burdensome cap that is put on small business loans.

I appreciate the opportunity to discuss the confusion about amendment No. 242. I thank the chairman and ranking member for their great work on the underlying bill which is important to my home State of Colorado.

I wish my amendment would get a vote today, but regardless of what happens I will continue to work with Chairman Landrieu, Ranking Member Snowe, and the rest of my colleagues to find innovative means to free up credit for small businesses in a responsible way.

On a final note, the Presiding Officer hails from a great State that has significant banking and credit union sectors. We know they don't always see eye to eye, which is the root of the objection to my amendment. Yet they still manage to operate side by side to serve the community's credit needs. They both make up the fabric of America and continue to grow our economy. It is simply the way we do business in the United States.

I wish to highlight that spirit, which is in stark contrast to the kind of divisive politics that have been brewing in America; one that furthers disagreements and draws ideological lines in the sand and, frankly, sows disrespect at the expense of shared interests and collective prosperity. The American people are seeing a disappointing example of that today. There is a vocal minority outside this very Capitol demanding acrimony and a combative approach for Members of Congress which I believe--and many of us believe--in the end will further disable our capacity to get the economy back on its feet.

While this is happening outside, many of us are inside doing the people's business. We treat each other with respect, and we are working on a bill to help small businesses invest in R&D. We are also negotiating a compromise to keep our government running.

That is the American way I have always known. I applaud my colleagues who remain committed to working together.

I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.

The clerk will call the roll. The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin

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Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.

Without objection, it is so ordered.