Washington Report: Don’t Let Up on Swipe Fee Grassroots (NACS Online)


Washington Report: Don’t Let Up on Swipe Fee Grassroots. (via NACSOnline)

This week NACS unleashed a grassroots firestorm in support of amendments to the financial services reform package that could ease the pain of swipe fees. Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) stood up for merchants across the country when he introduced his two amendments (see details below).

Retailers must continue to build the groundswell of attention to swipe fees. This is what we have been asking for and now is the time to tell your senators to take action. Our opposition is well organized and well funded — we cannot underestimate them. They took notice of our efforts and are pushing Senate leadership not to vote on our amendments. If there is no vote, then the banks win.

Click here for a list of Senate phone numbers, make your call and pass on the word for others to call. Your message should be, “I am counting on your support of the Durbin/Leahy/Landrieu Amendment #3771 and the Durbin Amendment #3769. I am counting on you to tell Senate leaders there must be a vote on these amendments.”

Details of Amendments
The first is the Durbin-Leahy-Landrieu Amendment #3771 to stop credit/debit card networks from imposing anti-competitive restrictions on the small businesses, merchants and government agencies who accept their cards. The amendment would say that sellers can do the following things without being threatened or punished by card networks like Visa and MasterCard:

  • Offer discounts to customers to use a competing card network (e.g., the amendment would let a store that accepts Visa offer a discount for a customer to use MasterCard or Discover. Visa currently prohibits such discounts);
  • Offer discounts for use of cash, check, debit card or stored-value card (current law does not fully ensure that merchants can offer these discounts); and
  • Set a minimum or maximum transaction amount for payment by card (small businesses lose money on transactions when they cannot set these amounts)

The second is Durbin-Specter-Whitehouse Amendment #3769 to ensure that interchange fees charged for debit card transactions are reasonable and proportional to the costs incurred in processing the transaction.

  • With this amendment, Visa and MasterCard will be prevented from continuing to increase debit card interchange fee rates, which currently amount to 1% to 2% of the transaction amount even though the actual cost of processing a debit transaction is far less.
  • The amendment would direct the Fed to issue regulations to ensure that interchange fees imposed on debit card transactions be “reasonable and proportional” to the cost incurred in processing the transaction.  (The rules would have a carve-out for small bank debit cards).

NACS Staff Contact: Lyle Beckwith

Vermont Close to Being First State to Act on Swipe Fees
Vermont’s House and Senate unanimously passed landmark legislation earlier this week that directly addresses credit card interchange fees and other practices by the credit card companies. If signed by Vermont’s Governor Jim Douglas, the law will take effect January 1, 2011.

The Vermont Retail Association and the Vermont Grocers Association, who combined represent more than 1,000 Vermont businesses, “were instrumental” in supporting the legislation, especially noting the lack of negotiating power that the individual businesses have when dealing with credit card companies. Both associations worked intensively with legislators, businesses, and the card companies to help steer the bill to passage.

Key points of the new legislation include:

  • Merchants can set card purchase minimums up to $10.
  • Merchants can offer discounts or other benefits for payment by lower-cost cards or cash.
  • Merchants can refuse credit cards in one or multiple locations.
  • Directs the Vermont Banking & Insurance Department to review interchange fees charged to merchants and make recommendations to the legislature.
  • Imposes significant penalties for the implementation of credit card skimming devices.

This law will provide immense benefits for Vermont businesses and consumers. It may also pave the way for similar legislation in other states nationwide. The Vermont house and senate leadership deserve special praise for their role in passing this groundbreaking legislation,” said Tasha Wallis, Executive Director of the Vermont Retail Association,

The new law gives hundreds of small businesses here much-needed protection against abusive practices by the credit-card companies. It represents overdue restraint of an out-of-control industry,” said Jim Harrison, President of the Vermont Grocers Association.

NACS Staff Contact: Lyle Beckwith

Democrats Contemplate Rolling Out Climate Change Bill Without Republican Support
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) had been working with Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) on climate change legislation but a spat over immigration with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) led him to drop out of the discussions. A draft of the trio’s bill was expected last week and yesterday Lieberman said they are preparing to roll out the bill without Graham.

“He’ll be supportive but not with us,” Lieberman said. “I prefer it the other way, but we’ve got enough support that we want to get it started.” Kerry also indicated that they may proceed without Graham officially on the bill but did not confirm any decisions had been made.

Climate change legislation has a lot of hurdles to clear; the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has complicated the debate. According to Reid’s top energy and climate aide, Chris Miller, “It’s unclear whether there will be bipartisan support. We are hopeful, given the short time frame, that we’ll get some support, because if we don’t, chances we’re going to be able to legislate on this year and in the next few years is going to decline significantly.”

NACS Staff Contact: Corey Fitze

Estate Tax Could Become Part of Small Business Incentives Package
The Senate Finance Committee hopes to move a $10 billion package of small business incentives sometime this month. Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) has asked members to hold off on trying to amend the bill with unrelated provisions. It seems however that pressure to do something about the estate tax may thwart his efforts.

If Congress does not take action the estate tax will go back to 55 percent and in an election year it is obvious this would not be popular with the electorate. Sens. John Kyl (R-AZ) and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) have been advocating for a lower rate (35 percent) and an increase in the exemption level to $5 million per spouse. Kyl feels that this small business incentive package could be just the vehicle for considering the issue. Other Senators feel that any controversial topic should be off the table so that the package can easily pass.

A committee vote could occur as early as next week

State Name Senate Office State Office
AK Senator Mark Begich (202) 224-3004 (907) 271-5915
AK Senator Lisa Murkowski (202) 224-6665 (907) 271-3735
AL Senator Jeff Sessions (202) 224-4124 (334) 244-7017
AL Senator Richard Shelby (202) 224-5744 (334) 223-7303
AR Senator Blanche Lincoln (202) 224-4843 (501) 375-2993
AR Senator Mark Pryor (202) 224-2353 (501) 324-6336
AZ Senator Jon Kyl (202) 224-4521 (602) 840-1891
AZ Senator John McCain (202) 224-2235 (602) 952-2410
CA Senator Barbara Boxer (202) 224-3553 (916) 448-2787
CA Senator Dianne Feinstein (202) 224-3841 (310) 914-7300
CO Senator Michael Bennet (202) 224-5852 (303) 455-7600
CO Senator Mark Udall (202) 224-5941 (719) 471-3993
CT Senator Christopher Dodd (202) 224-2823 (860) 258-6940
CT Senator Joseph Lieberman (202) 224-4041 (860) 549-8463
DE Senator Thomas Carper (202) 224-2441 (302) 674-3308
DE Senator Edward Kaufman (202) 224-5042 (302) 573-6345
FL Senator George LeMieux (202) 224-3041 (407) 254-2573
FL Senator Bill Nelson (202) 224-5274 (850) 942-8415
GA Senator C. Saxby Chambliss (202) 224-3521 (770) 763-9090
GA Senator Johnny Isakson (202) 224-3643 (770) 661-0999
HI Senator Daniel Akaka (202) 224-6361 (808) 522-8970
HI Senator Daniel Inouye (202) 224-3934 (808) 541-2542
IA Senator Charles Grassley (202) 224-3744 (515) 288-1145
IA Senator Tom Harkin (202) 224-3254 (515) 284-4574
ID Senator Michael Crapo (202) 224-6142 (208) 334-1776
ID Senator James Risch (202) 224-2752 (208) 342-7985
IL Senator Roland Burris (202) 224-2854 (312) 886-3506
IL Senator Richard Durbin (202) 224-2152 (217) 492-4062
IN Senator Evan Bayh (202) 224-5623 (317) 554-0750
IN Senator Richard Lugar (202) 224-4814 (317) 226-5555
KS Senator Sam Brownback (202) 224-6521 (785) 233-2503
KS Senator Pat Roberts (202) 224-4774 (785) 295-2745
KY Senator Jim Bunning (202) 224-4343 (270) 885-1212
KY Senator Mitch McConnell (202) 224-2541 (502) 582-6304
LA Senator Mary Landrieu (202) 224-5824 (225) 389-0395
LA Senator David Vitter (202) 224-4623 (504) 589-2753
MA Senator Scott Brown (202) 224-4543 (617) 565-3170
MA Senator John Kerry (202) 224-2742 (617) 565-8519
MD Senator Benjamin Cardin (202) 224-4524 (410) 962-4436
MD Senator Barbara Mikulski (202) 224-4654 (410) 263-1805
ME Senator Susan Collins (202) 224-2523 (207) 622-8414
ME Senator Olympia Snowe (202) 224-5344 (207) 622-8292
MI Senator Carl Levin (202) 224-6221 (313) 226-6020
MI Senator Deborah Stabenow (202) 224-4822 (517) 203-1760
MN Senator Al Franken (202) 224-5641 (651) 221-1016
MN Senator Amy Klobuchar (202) 224-3244 (612) 727-5220
MO Senator Christopher Bond (202) 224-5721 (573) 634-2488
MO Senator Claire McCaskill (202) 224-6154 (816) 421-1639
MS Senator Thad Cochran (202) 224-5054 (601) 965-4459
MS Senator Roger Wicker (202) 224-6253 (662) 429-1002
MT Senator Max Baucus (202) 224-2651 (406) 449-5480
MT Senator Jon Tester (202) 224-2644 (406) 449-5401
NC Senator Richard Burr (202) 224-3154 (336) 631-5125
NC Senator Kay Hagan (202) 224-6342 (336) 333-5311
ND Senator Kent Conrad (202) 224-2043 (701) 258-4648
ND Senator Byron Dorgan (202) 224-2551 (701) 250-4618
NE Senator Michael Johanns (202) 224-4224 (402) 758-8981
NE Senator E. Nelson (202) 224-6551 (402) 441-4600
NH Senator Judd Gregg (202) 224-3324 (603) 225-7115
NH Senator Jeanne Shaheen (202) 224-2841 (603) 647-7500
NJ Senator Frank Lautenberg (202) 224-3224 (973) 639-8700
NJ Senator Robert Menendez (202) 224-4744 (973) 645-3030
NM Senator Jeff Bingaman (202) 224-5521 (505) 988-6647
NM Senator Tom Udall (202) 224-6621 (505) 988-6511
NV Senator John Ensign (202) 224-6244 (775) 885-9111
NV Senator Harry Reid (202) 224-3542 (775) 882-7343
NY Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (202) 224-4451 (518) 431-0120
NY Senator Charles Schumer (202) 224-6542 (518) 431-4070
OH Senator Sherrod Brown (202) 224-2315 (216) 522-7272
OH Senator George Voinovich (202) 224-3353 (614) 469-6697
OK Senator Tom Coburn (202) 224-5754 (405) 231-4941
OK Senator James Inhofe (202) 224-4721 (405) 608-4381
OR Senator Jeffery Merkley (202) 224-3753 (503) 326-3386
OR Senator Ron Wyden (202) 224-5244 (503) 589-4555
PA Senator Robert Casey (202) 224-6324 (717) 231-7540
PA Senator Arlen Specter (202) 224-4254 (717) 782-3951
RI Senator Jack Reed (202) 224-4642 (401) 528-5200
RI Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (202) 224-2921 (401) 453-5294
SC Senator Jim DeMint (202) 224-6121 (864) 233-5366
SC Senator Lindsey Graham (202) 224-5972 (803) 933-0112
SD Senator Tim Johnson (202) 224-5842 (605) 332-8896
SD Senator John Thune (202) 224-2321 (605) 334-9596
TN Senator Lamar Alexander (202) 224-4944 (615) 736-5129
TN Senator Bob Corker (202) 224-3344 (423) 756-2757
TX Senator John Cornyn (202) 224-2934 (512) 469-6034
TX Senator Kay Hutchison (202) 224-5922 (512) 916-5834
UT Senator Robert Bennett (202) 224-5444 (801) 524-5933
UT Senator Orrin Hatch (202) 224-5251 (801) 524-4380
VA Senator Mark Warner (202) 224-2023 (804) 775-2314
VA Senator James Webb (202) 224-4024 (804) 771-2221
VT Senator Patrick Leahy (202) 224-4242 (802) 229-0569
VT Senator Bernard Sanders (202) 224-5141 (802) 862-0697
WA Senator Maria Cantwell (202) 224-3441 (206) 220-6400
WA Senator Patty Murray (202) 224-2621 (206) 553-5545
WI Senator Russell Feingold (202) 224-5323 (414) 276-7282
WI Senator Herb Kohl (202) 224-5653 (608) 264-5338
WV Senator Robert Byrd (202) 224-3954 (304) 342-5855
WV Senator John Rockefeller (202) 224-6472 (304) 347-5372
WY Senator John Barrasso (202) 224-6441 (307) 772-2451
WY Senator Michael Enzi (202) 224-3424 (307) 682-6268
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