Harkin Amendment suffers second blow

May 19, 2010 | by Matt Cunningham
A new version of the controversial Senate amendment that would have capped ATM fees was not enough to help sponsor Sen. Tom Harkin succeed in having the proposal attached to President Obama's sweeping financial reform bill.
The original amendment would have limited ATM surcharge fees to 50 cents per transaction.
"It would have had an extremely devestating effect across the industry," said ATM Parts Mart.com's Patrick Conner.
Tuesday night, however, Sen. Harkin was forced to choose between the amendment and another he was proposing, dealing with financial annuities, and at the recommendation of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, brought up the annuities amendment.
Earlier today, however, Sen. Harkin introduced a version that instead of limiting fees directly, would have required fees to "bear a reasonable relation to the cost of processing the transaction."
The softened language was not enough to pacify opponents inside the industry or in the Senate. The ATM Industry Association (ATMIA) pelted industry leaders and elected officials with updates and prompts to action as dozens of ISOs, service providers and vendors took to e-mail and phone calls. The American Bankers Association and Electronic Funds Transfer Association also participated.
The Senate, however, voted 60 to 40 for cloture on the financial reform bill this afternoon, ending debate before the revised amendment could be considered. It was not included in the legislation.
"We're pleased that it's no longer being considered," said ABA spokesperson Carol Kaplan. "The reason it failed was because it was a bad amendment."
Harkin could not be reached for comment at the time of the vote. Bergen Kenney, his spokesperson, said it was too early to determine if Harkin would attempt to add the amendment to another bill.
"We haven't talked about that yet," she said.
Industry leaders expressed cautious optimism after debate closed on the bill.
"We're very pleased it didn't make it," said EFTA president and CEO Kurt Helwig. "However, I don't know if we can exhale completely just yet."
MetaBank's Kendall Harsch agreed, explaining that amendments can be added during the reconciliation process between House and Senate bills.
"There are opportunities where it could be brought in through the back door," he said.
Both men said the industry should keep watching the ATM fee issue, in case future legislation or amendments appear in Congress.
"I think this is still a shot across the bow," said Helwig. "I think we'll need to keep an eye on the legislation."

Topics: Government

Companies: ATM Industry Association (ATMIA)

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