Sen. Mike Crapo: Championing Credit Unions

Senate Banking Committee chairman shares his perspective as he — and the committee — work to address key credit union issues

Note: This is the first in a two-part series featuring members of Congress.

Senator Mike Crapo

Q: What do you hope to get done in the Senate Banking Committee in this Congress as chairman?

A: We had an incredibly productive 115th Congress, and one of our pinnacle achievements was getting the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act (S. 2155) signed into law. In the 116th Congress, a top priority is continued oversight to determine whether the financial regulators interpret and develop regulations, guidance and supervisory expectations consistent with the law’s intent. The committee will continue to examine additional areas where regulation should be tailored for financial companies to ensure they can adequately deliver credit to local communities.

I have also been involved in housing finance reform efforts since I became the top Republican on the committee in 2013. Earlier this year, I released an outline for housing finance reform legislation that will establish stronger levels of taxpayer protection, preserve the 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage, increase competition among mortgage guarantors and improve access to affordable housing. Congress and the Administration agree that it is time to fix the flawed system in a bipartisan manner and set up a more sustainable, efficient, permanent housing finance system that will provide future economic opportunities for millions of families and individuals throughout America.

Data privacy and the collection, protection and use of personally identifiable information by both the government and private companies is also a priority this Congress. The Senate Banking Committee is examining approaches to data privacy, including the impact on the financial services industry and how companies collect and use information in marketing and decision making related to credit, insurance or employment. Recent large-scale data breaches have highlighted the importance of not only protecting consumers’ information, but [also] the need to provide consumers with more control over what information is collected, how it is used and with whom it is shared. The financial services industry excels in this area compared to other industries, but as technology develops, so must
our standards. Legislative solutions are needed to give consumers more control and enhanced protection over their data that could have big implications for their financial lives, and to ensure consumers are notified of breaches in a timely and consistent manner.

Q: How important is bipartisanship to passing legislation?

A: In a divided Congress, bipartisanship is not only important, it’s essential. People often forget that in the Senate, having a simple majority is not enough to pass legislation — most bills have to meet a 60-vote threshold, and neither party has met that threshold alone in a decade. But beyond simple thresholds and party majorities, which ebb and flow, the key to successful legislation that stands the test of time is broad, bipartisan support. Again, I am very proud of what we were able to accomplish with the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, which had broad support from both parties.

Q: Credit unions are committed to bettering their communities and the people they serve. How important are credit unions to you and your constituents?

A: Credit unions are part of the foundation of towns across America, particularly in rural states like Idaho. They help families buy homes, pay for college and start businesses. Beyond this, many sponsor children’s sports teams, food drives and other community service efforts. Unfortunately, these institutions have struggled to keep up with the ever-increasing regulatory compliance and examiner demands from Washington.
The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act included several credit union-specific provisions, such as amendments to Dodd-Frank, a charter enhancement provision to allow more member

business lending, a provision that requires NCUA to hold an annual budget hearing and a provision that protects credit union officials who report suspected elder financial abuse. These changes will better enable credit unions to support local communities by directing resources toward what they do best — approving mortgages, lending to small businesses and providing credit to families in their communities.

NAFCU President and CEO Dan Berger, right, with Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo on Capitol Hill.

Q: Over the years, NAFCU has had a great working relationship with you and your staff. How would you describe your relationship with NAFCU?

A: I agree, NAFCU has been a great partner over the years. In the 115th Congress, NAFCU was particularly helpful in overturning the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s rule on arbitration agreements. The vote to disapprove the rule was perhaps the most significant use of the Congressional Review Act (CRA), and passed by a 50-to-50 vote with the vice president breaking the tie. NAFCU played a critical part in educating members about the value of alternative dispute resolution, and I am not sure we would have successfully passed this CRA without that assistance.

Q: What is one thing you would want credit union leaders to know about you?

A: When I first came to the Senate from the House of Representatives, I got a phone call from the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee encouraging me to get on the committee. As the freshman senator from Idaho, it seemed natural to gravitate toward committee assignments whose jurisdiction covered agriculture, natural resources, energy and similar issues, and I told him as much. He countered by challenging me to name some specific issue areas where my constituency was concerned, and proceeded to connect each issue to some area within the committee’s jurisdiction. From financial regulation to the housing market to sanctions legislation, the work that we do on the committee carries weight in each of our states. I have retained assignments on several of those other committees I was initially interested in, but I’m grateful that I was given an early opportunity to join the Senate Banking Committee and humbled to chair it 20 years later.

Q: What advice would you give to credit union representatives about how to deliver their message as they meet with lawmakers?

A: I encourage you to remain engaged with policymakers, and to help them identify areas of improvement to our often outdated laws and regulations that stifle economic growth and opportunity.

I realize that many are not able to travel to Washington, D.C., regularly to engage with representatives face to face, but that should  not dissuade you from contacting our offices by phone, email, comment letter or another avenue  of communication.

You are well-represented here in Washington, and we appreciate your contributions to some of these important policy discussions.