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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As the industry awaits the passage of swipe fee reform legislation, big banks and their government allies are looking for ways to delay any such measure.
According to the New York Post, Sen. John Tester (D-Montana) is hoping to add a delay rider to one of two bills that are reported shoe-ins for Senate approval: one bill that focuses on extending energy efficiency benefits on appliances, known as the Energy Efficiency Act; and the other a bill to extend the Patriot Act. Both pieces of legislation are expected to come up for vote in the next few weeks.
At this point, the newspaper reported, Tester believes that he has the political backing to get the delay and study bill passed. However, one Washington insider warned that "there are no guarantees" that the delay bill will pass.
In March, Tester introduced a bill that, if approved, would delay swipe fee reform for two years, as CSNews Online previously reported. However, the sense of urgency may be building, according to the Post, because there are rumblings that the Federal Reserve could make a definitive decision on where to set swipe fees -- also known as interchange fees -- before Memorial Day weekend. If that turns out to be true, Tester's "kill bill" would be useless.
The Federal Reserve was initially slated to make a decision on the controversial issue -- which pits the retail industry against big financial institutions, such as JPMorgan Chase, MasterCard and Visa -- on April 21. However, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said the Fed needed more time. In the past, Bernanke has expressed his own concerns and cited the more than 11,000 commenters who weighed in on the Fed's controversial proposal to rein in the interchange fees. He explained the information provided in those comments is important for assessing the effects of the rule, as CSNews Online reported last month.