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Politics on the Hill still a roadblock to full NCUA board

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Politics on the Hill still a roadblock to full NCUA board

The calendarand political gamesmanship could conspire to keep the most recent nominee to theNational Credit Union Administration board from being confirmed anytime soon.

PresidentBarack Obama on July 13 nominatedJohn Herrera to the NCUA board, but he must be confirmed by the Senate. If confirmed,his term would end April 10, 2021.

Herrerais co-founder and chairman of Durham, N.C.-based Latino Community Credit Union. Herrera is alsocurrently serving as senior vice president of Latino and Hispanic affairs at Durham,N.C.-based Self-Help Credit Union.

Despitethe nomination, Credit Union National Association Chief Advocacy Officer Ryan Donovansaid in an interview that the NCUA board may remain a two-man operation for a while.He said the Senate will only be in session about two or three dozen days for theremainder of the year. At the same time, the Obama administration and the currentCongress are winding down. "We'll have a new Congress and a new administrationin the coming months," Donovan said. "I'm not sure there is very muchappetite for any nominations at this point."

Anotherfactor at play is that Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby has notmoved many nominations through his committee and has been pretty straightforwardin expressing why, Donovan said. Shelby wants the administration to nominate a vicechairman for the Federal Reserve. "In the absence of the administration doingthat, I simply don't see how — or why — the banking committee would move other nominations,"he said.

DennisDollar, a credit union consultant and former NCUA chairman, said in an interviewthat he has always been "incredibly impressed" with Herrera's intellectand commitment to credit union principles. He said that while the confirmation processwill be a "steep hill to climb" for any nominee so late in a hotly-contestedelection year, it will ultimately come down to the politics on the Hill.

In themeantime, the regulator will continue with a two-man board. Former NCUA ChairwomanDebbie Matz stepped downApril 30 leaving only current Chairman Rick Metsger and board member J. Mark McWatters.McWatters, a Republican, has been nominatedby President Obama to be a board member of the Export-Import Bank of the United States. No action has beenscheduled on his confirmation though, which has frustrated some Democrats in the Senate who have tried toforce the nomination forward.

Duringthe National Association of Federal Credit Unions' annual convention last month,NAFCU's vice president of legislative affairs, Brad Thaler, said McWatters' nominationis one of the most contentious in the Senate this year. "Without a politicaldeal being struck, it is unlikely that the nomination will move forward in 2016,"he said.

JohnRadebaugh, president and CEO of the Carolinas Credit Union League, said in an interviewthat Herrera is a good listener and a consensus builder. "I've seen these qualitiesin his work in North Carolina and expect he will bring the same to the NCUA board,"he said. Radebaugh added that Herrera has been a leader in the credit union communityin the Carolinas for many years. He said in its short 16-year history, Latino CommunityCredit Union has grown and thrived and Herrera has been at the heart of its successin meeting the needs of a traditionally underserved community.

Radebaughadded that working for an individual credit union and being an NCUA board memberare two completely different roles. As an NCUA board member, Herrera will have theresponsibility for the safety and soundness of the entire system. "My planis to sit down with John and see where he feels his focus will be as a board member,"he said.

NationalAssociation of State Credit Union Supervisors President and CEO Lucy Ito said Herrerahas a long and distinguished service to the credit union community and has workedclosely with local regulators in his role as a member of the North Carolina CreditUnion Commission for seven years. "As one who has organized a state-charteredcredit union, he has inside knowledge of the challenges facing new credit unions,but also an appreciation for the opportunities that a state charter can presentto a growing institution," she said.

CUNAPresident and CEO Jim Nussle said in a release that few credit union leaders haveworked harder or more passionately to include marginalized and underserved communitiesinto traditional financial services than Herrera. He said credit unions will benefitfrom having someone with direct credit union experience on the board.

Ryansaid CUNA is interested in having a full board at the NCUA because any vacancy issignificant with a three-person board. "It's just hard to see how this getsdone given the calendar and the political climate on the [Senate banking] committee,"he said. "But it's a strange year and strange things can happen."