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Credit Union Members Wait, Wonder

February 25, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Now that the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of banks in their battle with credit unions, it is unclear whether current credit union customers who aren’t in traditional member groups will be booted out.

The head of the American Bankers Association said bankers won’t try to force out credit union members who signed up under the now-invalidated rule and will only move to stop credit unions from using the rule to add new members.

But an official of the credit union industry said the high court’s ruling could force millions of current customers _ he estimated them at 10 million to 20 million _ to lose their memberships.

The issue now goes to a lower federal court, which could take up to three months to decide.

In the meantime, though, it looks as if Congress won’t let customers be thrown out.

``It is inconceivable to me that Congress will allow millions of Americans to be kicked out of the financial institution of their choice. We will not allow this to happen,″ House Banking Committee Chairman Jim Leach, R-Iowa, said.

With the ink still drying on the 5-4 ruling written by Justice Clarence Thomas, several key lawmakers promised to fight to protect credit unions.

Broader legislation, which would overturn the Supreme Court decision by allowing federal credit unions to continue to include more than one group in their memberships, appears to be gaining momentum.

The bill, originally proposed last year by Reps. Paul Kanjorski, D-Pa., and Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., got a boost on Tuesday when House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., threw his support behind it.

The measure now has some 140 cosponsors from both parties, Kanjorski said in a telephone interview. ``There is a very strong feeling in the country that we need to have a choice in financial institutions,″ he said.

Leach has tentatively scheduled hearings on the issue for the week of March 9.

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