Laura Seitz, Deseret News
FILE - Congresswoman Mia Love speaks at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 29, 2016. In an interview Friday, Love said her first bill to pass the House, raising limits on how large community banks can grow, will make more credit available.

SALT LAKE CITY — Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, said Friday her first bill to pass the House, raising limits on how large community banks can grow, will make more credit available.

"This wasn't about helping banks to me. It was about helping communities," the congresswoman first elected in 2014 told the Deseret News about her bill, HR3791, approved 247-171 by the House on Thursday.

Love, a member of the House Financial Services Committee, said she had help getting the bill to the floor for a vote from House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., assigned to be her mentor in Congress.

But she said the bill raising the Federal Reserve's asset threshold requirement to qualify as a small bank from $1 billion to $5 billion, first passed by the committee in December, went through a "vigorous" process.

"It's really nice when you feel like you're working hard to move the needle and somebody isn't just giving you something," Love said. "You're really having to chase and earn that vote."

The bill was supported by industry organizations including the American Bankers Association.

Charles Knadler, president and CEO of EnerBank, a Salt Lake City-based home improvement lender, said in a statement he was "impressed at Rep. Love's ability to, in her first term, pass a bill of this substance and importance" to the state.

Love faces a tough battle for re-election this year against Democrat Doug Owens, who lost to her in 2014 by just over three points. This time, Owens already has significant support from the national party.

Owens' campaign manager, Andrew Roberts, recently said Utah voters are going to have "buyer's remorse" about Love because since her election, she's been "on the national TV news 40 times and hasn't passed a single bill."

Now that Love has gotten a bill at least through the House, Owens' campaign spokesman, Taylor Morgan, issued a statement suggesting she made the effort because of the upcoming election.

"After nearly a full term in the House, Mia Love finally took a break from her busy national fundraising schedule to do some work in Congress. Utahns are ready for a leader who will represent them all the time, not just at election time," Morgan said.

Love said it is difficult to get any bill through the House as a freshman, especially one that is substantive. She said her work on the bill was not to "answer any political questions" raised by her opponent's campaign.

"It was more important for me to be effective in my committee than it was for me to answer anything the Democrats are doing," Love said. "I was shocked when I heard that because I wasn't even thinking about that."

She said the bill will boost the number customers of small banks who can get loans to open or expand a business, purchase or improve a home, or for other needs by between 12 percent and 15 percent.

"It allows them to be able to use their capital to make money and give access to credit to more people," Love said. "I hope, I really hope, Utah is proud of the work we've put in. And I've just gotten started."

The bill passed the House with only one Republican and 170 Democrats opposed. It now goes to the Senate.

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