CUs make impact during swearing-in day for 116th Congress

The 116th Congress officially took office at noon Thursday, and CUNA, credit unions and leagues spent the hours before and after making their presence felt on Capitol Hill, greeting over 80 new and returning members in both the House and Senate.

“We congratulate this Congress on the start of their term and, knowing there are credit union champions in both chambers and both parties, we look forward to quickly getting to work on the issues that credit unions and their 115 million members care about,” said CUNA President/CEO Jim Nussle. “We also thank our leagues and credit unions for taking the time to come to Washington, D.C. today to ensure credit unions are at the table from day one of the new Congress.”

“We have members in three states, and a lot of new members of Congress in those states, so this was a good opportunity to meet both legislators and their staffers,” said Trish Shermot, government relations and engagement officer with Visions FCU, Endicott, N.Y. “That way, when I come visit again, likely in a month or two, before CUNA GAC, I’ve got some names and faces, and a good foundation to start talking credit union issues.”

David Miles, chief advocacy officer of the Virginia Credit Union League, and Karin Sherbin, director of government affairs for the Virginia Credit Union League, split duties during the day, with Miles meeting with newly elected legislators and Sherbin visiting returning legislators.

“Both new and retuning members of Congress hosted open houses throughout the day, which is a good chance to do meet-and-greets, just to stop by and say hi,” Miles said. “If possible, we tried to meet with legislators, but also got to know their financial services staffers, who we’ll look to start working with soon.”

The Virginia League dropped off one-pagers outlining the credit union difference and credit union legislative priorities.

“Being on Capitol Hill for the first official day of session is a great way to hit the ground running with members of our delegation. For returning lawmakers, there’s often staff changes that impact who handles credit union issues,” said Amy McLard, executive director of advocacy for the Heartland Credit Union Association. “This year, we have three new members in our delegations. Being in Washington, D.C. for their swearing-in is a way to be a part of a momentous day for them, make face-to-face connections with their staff, and bring credit unions to the table right from the start.”

McLard said policy wasn’t directly discussed at every meeting, but when asked, she emphasized the need for data security legislation and Bank Secrecy Act reform, and noted that placing credit unions under the Community Reinvestment Act would create additional burdens and barriers between consumers and credit.

Several Texas credit unions organized with the Cornerstone Credit Union League to make the trip to D.C. to greet their lawmakers, particularly the new ones, face to face.

“We have 10 new members of our Congressional delegation in Texas and wanted to come and offer a welcome and congratulations,” said Gretchen Ziegler, executive director of government relations with the Cornerstone Credit Union League.

Houston-based SPCO CU, MemberSource CU, Our Mother of Mercy FCU and Transtar FCU helped organize the trip with the Cornerstone League.

"The 116th Congress has generated a lot of enthusiasm around the country, and we're very optimistic that new and established legislators will be willing to work across party lines on key credit union issues," said Cornerstone Chief Government Relations Officer Jim Phelps. "Our visiting contingent will engage with the 10 Texas freshmen to begin building relationships that ensure credit unions are top of mind when lawmakers consider legislation."