TESTIMONY OF THE HONORABLE BENNIE G. THOMPSON (D-MS) BEFORE THE BANKING AND FINANCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 10, 1997
Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, thank you for providing me with this opportunity to give testimony on the Supreme Court's recent decision to force Federal Credit Unions to strictly adhere to the "common bond" clause as established by the Federal Credit Union Act of 1934. I come before you today to offer my support for the rights of the millions of Americans who are members of Federal Credit Unions.
Because I realize how important access and opportunity are to the residents of my District in the rural Mississippi Delta, I have become a cosponsor of H.R. 1151, the "Credit Union Membership Access Act." The Court's February 25th decision in the National Credit Union Administration v. First National Bank & Trust Co., case makes this legislation more crucial than ever.
By holding credit unions to a strict interpretation of "common bond," the Court has effectively eliminated the possibility for many of my constituents to receive essential services from credible financial institutions.
Mr. Chairman and Committee members, while lobbyists argue about deposit requirements, taxes, and competition among multi-billion dollar industries, I encourage you not to lose sight of the real issue--providing an opportunity for EVERY citizen to achieve the American Dream.
Many people would have you believe that this discussion is about equitable treatment and "fair" competition between banks and credit unions, but for the 34,000 credit union members in my district, it boils down to something far more basic. The hopes and dreams of millions of Americans ride on whether or not larger commercial banks will give them loans to purchase homes, send their children to college, or finance a family vacation, so that two working parents can spend more time with their children.
Credit unions are the only source of capital in many communities, and to some, they are a lender of last resort. Last year, some of my constituents found both the time and the money to fly up to Washington and personally tell me how important their credit union was to buying their family home. Enthusiastic men and women of different ages, races, and income levels all told me the same story. They had wanted to buy a home--a place to raise their children and plant a little vegetable garden. However, after being turned down by bank after bank after bank, many of them began to give up on their dreams of becoming home owners. When no one else was willing to give them a chance, Credit Unions extended a helping hand.
The dream of land ownership is as deeply-rooted in the souls of every American as the principle that there should be no "taxation without representation." Unfortunately, the Supreme Court's interpretation of the phrase "common bond" has erected an obstacle that will push countless numbers of Americans further away from their dream.
Now, it is our responsibility, as Members of Congress, to rectify this situation and protect that dream. We must enact legislation that will legally extend the powers of credit unions, and we must enable them to continue playing their role as lenders of last resort. The American public should be afforded the right to choose which financial institution best meets their needs and then work with that entity to make a better life for themselves and their families.
I would once again like to thank you for this opportunity and encourage you to remember what is really at stake in this debate.