Finding Common Ground

By Camden R. Fine, president and CEO of ICBA

After a tumultuous and divisive election year, 2017 ushers in new opportunities for our nation to collectively heal and confront the policy challenges facing us in Washington. Following the familial warmth of the holidays, and with the preternatural clarity the new year brings, this is a time to rededicate ourselves to the endangered proposition that we can respect those with whom we disagree.

There must be a fresh chance to suspend the hyper-partisanship that has taken hold in our nation’s capital and brought governance to a standstill. It is time to listen to Americans fed up with Washington gridlock and recognize that each of us advocates with the same motivation: to make this country a better place for all of us. It is time, in other words, to get back to work.

As a new Congress and administration take the reins in 2017, ICBA and the nation’s community bankers are positioned to do just that. Bipartisan support for community banks is well-established in the executive and legislative branches, so we have an opportunity to advance much-needed policies, particularly regulatory relief.

To take advantage of this opening, ICBA is releasing a new Plan for Prosperity platform. We’ve replaced the agenda items we successfully attained during the previous Congress with new ones determined by ICBA’s leadership community bankers, emphasizing our pro-growth objective to dovetail with the focus of policymakers and the public. Of course, we’re not asking for regulatory relief for its own sake but to help spur the flow of credit, increase economic activity and enhance job opportunities nationwide.

More than 50 ICBA-advocated bills were introduced in the 114th Congress. They embodied nearly every provision of our Plan for Prosperity, such as relief from Basel III capital rules, mortgage lending restrictions and overzealous examinations. That tally includes the community bank-specific provisions in House Financial Services Committee chairman Jeb Hensarling’s Financial CHOICE Act, which will have even greater prospects this year. While ICBA has had considerable success advancing our regulatory priorities despite partisan logjams, we are working to ensure the new political outlook takes critical unresolved measures over the top.

Regulatory relief remains job No. 1 at ICBA, but we will also remain resolute in our efforts to push back against the mission creep of tax-advantaged credit unions and Farm Credit System entities. In addition to our challenges to the National Credit Union Administration’s unlawful commercial lending and field of membership rules, we continue to bird-dog illegitimate Farm Credit activities and advocate legislation offering tax relief for rural community banks. Meanwhile, we’re reinvigorating our campaigns to address concerns with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, enact uniform national data-security standards, repeal price controls on debit-card interchange, reform proposed rules on small-dollar loans and overtime pay, and more.

While we have a brief moment to sheathe our weapons and put our nation’s interests above our personal differences, the hyper-partisanship that plagues American politics is unlikely to be interrupted for long. Fortunately, ICBA’s tradition of bipartisanship allows us to not only remain above the fray, but to help unite policymakers of all stripes around a common goal of localized banking and economic growth. Community bankers might personally sympathize with Republicans or Democrats, but we remain earnestly, steadfastly, forever independent.

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