Sen. Jon Tester‟s (D-MT) amendment to delay implementation of the Federal Reserve rule on debit interchange fees by 15 months could be addressed as soon as this coming week. Reportedly, Tester will offer the amendment this Wednesday, June 8th during a debate over a bill to fund the Economic Development Administration. Tester‟s amendment, which has been modified since it was first drafted in an effort to gain more support, would delay the rule‟s implementation by 15 months, and require federal financial regulators to perform an additional study on how to best implement an interchange fee. Despite these changes, it is unclear whether Tester has enough votes to pass the 60 vote threshold necessary for passage.
As has been widely reported, the “Durbin Amendment” required the Fed to issue a rulemaking on this subject, and in December the Fed released a draft rule, which is scheduled to go into effect in July. That rule would limit interchange fees to no more than the issuer‟s allowable costs divided by the number of electronic debit transactions on which the issuer received or charged an interchange fee in the calendar year. Alternatively, the issuer could receive debit interchange fees capped at 12 cents per transaction.
If the vote were to come up and fail, it is unclear what immediate next steps the banks would be able to take in their fight against this rule.