cutimes.com | Credit Union Times | April 8, 2020 | 3
tto Von Bismarck
is credited with
having said, “Laws
are like sausages;
it is better not to see them being
It’s a cliché, but having watched
a fair number of laws being made,
I can testify that it’s absolutely true.
Consider the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package enacted
Anytime you cobble together
legislation of that size in a couple
of days, there are going to be what
is commonly known as “drafting
Drafting errors are provisions
in legislation that do the exact
opposite of what was intended or
something else screwy.
That was the case with the first
draft of the stimulus bill put together by Senate Republicans.
When it was released, NAFCU
President/CEO B. Dan Berger
sounded the alarm. In a few
places, he said, the definition of
“financial institution” was faulty.
The problem, he said, was that
the definition used did not include credit unions.
Let’s take a closer look.
Various sections of the legislation defined depository institutions in different ways.
For instance, one section of the
bill refers to a financial institu-
tion “as defined in section 3 of the
Federal Deposit Insurance Act ( 12
That section appears to say:
“Wherever the word ‘bank’ is used
in this chapter, the word shall be
held to include State bank, bank-
ing association and trust company,
except where national banks or
Federal reserve banks are specifi-
cally referred to. For purposes of
this chapter, a State bank includes
any bank which is operating under
the Code of Law for the District of
There are six references to
banks in those two sections.
Using that definition would
appear to exclude credit unions,
Other sections had similar
problems, but in a bill that totaled
more than 800 pages and was prepared in a short period of time,
mistakes are inevitable.
But those mistakes could have
had a profound impact on credit
unions and others.
The final legislation corrected
For instance, one section of
the final bill that originally did
not include credit unions said, in
the final version, “‘insured credit
union’ has the meaning described
in the Federal Credit Union Act.”
And then, it included credit
unions in other sections of the
Still with me?
Sometimes, the mistakes aren’t
so corrected and arguments aren’t
For years, the groups representing military banks and military
credit unions have been battling
over whether banks should be
given the same free rent benefits
that credit unions now enjoy.
In 2018, the two sides appeared
to have come to an amicable
But credit unions said whoever
wrote the provision that was sup-
posed to provide parity between
banks and credit unions made a
dreaded “drafting error.”
Trade groups said that, as writ-
ten, credit unions would have
been excluded from the free rent
benefit – far different than what
the legislation was intended to
Well, the deal fell apart. Credit
unions continued to receive their
free rent benefits and the bankers
remain ticked off about it.
These kinds of screw ups are far
from uncommon. There’s even a
name for the legislative vehicle
that Congress uses to do it.
It’s known as a “technical cor-
Now of course, sometimes the
corrections in those bills are far
from “technical,” but that’s a dis-
cussion for another day.
Not to be too cynical, but everything you see coming out of Washington for the next 10 years or so is
going to be linked to the coronavirus crisis.
Whether it’s really related or not.
Looking back to 9/11,
was needed for “home-
“It is amazing how
people can relate any-
thing to ‘homeland
man Bill Young (R-Fla.)
said in an interview in
2003. “I don’t think I
have received any ‘04
request that has not
been related to ‘home-
Now back then, ear-
marking funds in appro-
priations bills for specif-
ic projects was allowed.
That was before Congress decided that pork
And so, colleges and universities, such as the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology,
received millions of dollars for
homeland security projects.
One year, that college received a
$56.1 million earmark to purchase
a largely abandoned mining town
for a counterterrorism project.
Of course, it helped that the
late Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.)
was a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee,
which helped guide the project
Sometimes, members would
make sure their projects were included in an appropriations bill.
Then, they would vote against
the bill itself.
This allowed them to blovi-ate about how they voted to cut
spending, while at the same time
bragging about how they had
brought this all-important project
Imagine that. Two-faced
The New York Times and others
have detailed how the coronavirus
crisis has resulted in every lobbyist in town trying to tuck some
provision into a stimulus bill.
Anticipating that problem,
House Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.)
issued a statement early in the
crisis warning people not to try
to use the crisis to get something
they otherwise wouldn’t be able
Now, Congress has banned earmarks. And so, bills are supposed
to be as kosher as a Hebrew National salami.
Of course, even that prohibition can be overcome and some
creative lawmakers can make sure
that a project is tucked into some
innocuous legislative language.
All it takes are the magic words.
Those words used to be Homeland Security.
Now, it’s going to be
Writing Legislation on the Fly
THE CU CAPITAL INSIDER
EMAIL comments to
‘Not to be too cynical,
but everything you
see coming out of
Washington for the
next 10 years or so is
going to be linked to
the coronavirus crisis.
Whether it’s really
related or not.’