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Bills to delay interchange plan introduced in House and Senate

Saying there was a "ray of hope" that debit card programs will go unchanged for the short term for credit unions and other financial institutions, CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney asked House and Senate members to get behind two bills introduced Tuesday.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) sponsored, along with Rep. Shelley Capito (R-WV), H.R. 1081, a House bill that would delay the interchange rule effective date for one year and would also direct federal agencies to study the impact that interchange changes would have on credit unions and other card issuers, consumers, and merchants. The bill would require the Fed to write new interchange regulations within four months if the study were to find that the proposed exemption for financial institutions with under $10 billion in assets would not be effective. The regulations would also need to be rewritten if the study found that the Fed's proposal did not encompass all debit card-related costs or would harm consumers. H.R. 1081 has 27 bi-partisan co-sponsors

The Senate legislation ( S. 575) was introduced by Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT.) and is co-sponsored by Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN.), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Ben Nelson (D-NV), Tom Carper (D-DE), Pat Roberts (R-KN), Chris Coons (D-DE), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Pat Toomey (R-PA), with Sens. Thomas Coburn (R-OK) and John Thune (R-SD) coming on late Tuesday evening.

The Senate's version of the legislation would void the Federal Reserve's proposed debit interchange rule and extend the rulemaking timeline and effective date by two years. The legislation would also require the Federal Reserve, the NCUA, the FDIC and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to submit a study on the impact of any proposed interchange rule changes to the Senate Banking Committee and the House Financial Services Committee. The study would address the impact of the rules on credit unions and other debit card issuers, merchants, and consumers.

"We have a long way to go in this process, but credit unions and their members are much better positioned today than we were not so long ago, and particularly before we brought 4,000 credit union folks to town two weeks ago (CUNA GAC) to make our voices heard on Capitol Hill," said Cheney.

The interchange provisions, which under Dodd-Frank are scheduled to be made final in April and effective in late July, could lower the amount of transaction fees charged to seven cents per card swipe. CUNA has repeatedly suggested that the Fed should work with Congress to delay interchange regulation implementation to allow more time for consideration of how the interchange regulations would impact credit unions, as well as consumers.

Credit unions should be on the look out for an Action Alert from the League later today on each piece of legislation.