OK, I went to Washington and lobbied for S. 414, the Credit Card reform bill. Here’s what happened. We started the day at Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office, so I was up first. The staffer (I don’t recall his name but will update this when I get it) we met with was a bit cynical. I was disappointed. I tried to emphasize that the banks were harming Sen. Landrieu’s strongest supporters and that it was time for her to stand up for the poor people who vote for her. He basically dismissed that line of thinking since the next election is years away. He claimed that Sen. Landrieu wasn’t afraid of angering the bankers (not that we said anything like that, though she is the recipient of more than $2 million in banking lobby money) because she had supported a credit union bill vehemently opposed by banks. We tried to get him to admit the banks were screwing us with these rate hikes, fees and other onerous new burdens. But he never seemed to sympathize.
Next we met with Travis Johnson, a legislative assistant with Sen. David Vitter. We we engaged by a smart, civil staffer who challenged us, debated us and gave us an opportunity to rebut and refine our arguments. We might not have changed the way Vitter will vote. But we had an intelligent and satisfying discussion with his staffer.
We also visited with very receptive staffers in the offices of Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb.
Despite the fact that Sen. Landrieu’s opposition might be enough to stop the bill, there is a sense of optimism that credit card reform will pass. We were promised that if there is a signing ceremony with President Obama, that we’d be invited back!
I’m grateful to Consumers Union and the Pew Charitable Trusts for this amazing opportunity. It was amazing to see how accessible our federal delegation is to visits. I would advise anyone seeking to be heard to take the time to visit Washington and make an appointment. A staffer will be assigned to meet with you and give you the chance to be heard. Whether they listen is another story all together. But the experience is worth it because if you don’t try, nothing is guaranteed to happen.
Please call Sen. Landrieu’s office at 202-224-5824 and Sen. Vitter at 202-224-4623 and tell them you support credit card reform and want the senators to support their constituents and rein in the banks. The vote could happen this week or early next week, so call ASAP!