The House on Tuesday passed and sent to President Clinton a bill that would let credit unions expand their memberships to more than one occupational group, helping them compete against banks for consumers.
But it wasn't immediately clear whether Clinton would sign into law the measure the House adopted on a voice vote. The legislation, approved overwhelmingly by the Senate last week, lacks a provision that was in an earlier House-passed version - backed by the administration - that would require credit unions to abide by the fair-lending rules banks already must follow.Those federal rules require banks to serve low-income people and minorities in their communities.
Under the legislation, all current credit union members would be allowed to remain with their institutions.
The legislation would override a 5-month-old Supreme Court ruling by letting federally chartered credit unions continue to include more than one group in their memberships, as long as each group doesn't exceed 3,000 people.
Credit unions contend they are the best source of help for people of modest means, while the banking industry has bitterly protested credit unions' exemption from federal taxes, which would be retained by the legislation.
"I would say it was a victory of David over Goliath," Rep. Paul Kanjorski, D-Pa., one of the bill's original sponsors, said before the vote. "It's of the people, by the people and for the people."
For months, a feverish lobbying campaign has pitted the banking industry - which brought the lawsuit that reached the high court - against the 70 million-member credit union industry. Credit unions, with their tax exemption, compete with banks by often providing lower-cost loans and other services at more favorable rates for their members.
The administration supports the legislation but has pushed for fair-lending rules to be extended to credit unions.
However, Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, succeeded in stripping the fair-lending rules provision out of the Senate version last week when senators voted 50-44 for his amendment to exempt credit unions from community-lending requirements before passing the whole bill 92-6.