Meet the 116th Congress: Interview with Rep. Paul Cook

Rep. Paul Cook
Rep. Paul Cook, R-Barstow

With the new session of Congress in full swing, the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues are introducing you to our congressional delegations. This interview series will run periodically in CU Weekly and is an opportunity to hear directly from your members of Congress on their views of credit unions.

This series' first interview is with Rep. Paul Cook, R-Barstow, whose district spans most of the Sierra Nevada mountains down through Barstow. Representative Cook is no stranger to credit unions as he’s worked with them since his time in the California Legislature. He is currently the Republican lead author of H.R. 2305, legislation that would exempt any business loan made to a veteran from counting toward the member-business lending cap. He is devoted to ensuring veterans have opportunities to business ventures, as he was in their shoes serving in the Marines as a Colonel.

What has your experience been with your local credit unions?

I'm personally a member of two credit unions, and I firmly believe in the services they provide to our community as a whole. Credit unions provide consumers with another choice for managing their finances.

What are your priorities for the district and are any of them related to the financial services sector?

There are a lot of active duty military personnel in my district and almost 50,000 veterans. My district is one of the largest in California and is home to six separate military bases including 29 Palms, which is the largest United States Marine Corps base. Given the district’s large military community and my background as a retired Marine colonel, veterans are a top priority for me in Congress.

One of the major challenges that veterans face is the transition to civilian life, and we really need to do more to help them be successful. That’s why I joined with my colleagues Vicente Gonzalez, D-Texas; Don Young, R-Alaska; and Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, to introduce H.R. 2305—the Veterans Member Business Loan Act. The bill will ensure that our veterans have greater access to low-interest loans so they can be successful in starting their own businesses.

The average California congressional district has roughly 150,000 credit union members. Do you see any challenges to access to financial services in your district? 

As one of the largest districts in the country, my district covers more than 32,000 square miles. It’s also very rural, so a lot of the things that people in more urban and suburban districts take for granted just aren’t as easy here.  Likewise, when it comes to finding financial services, constituents struggle to find more choices and more convenience.

Credit unions are not-for-profit financial cooperatives that are very community oriented by providing local lending. An example is our recent efforts to provide assistance to federal employees during the federal government shutdown. How do you view the role of credit unions in the community and see our interests on the Hill? 

During the shutdown, I know credit unions really stepped in to help fill the gap for families who were struggling. Many of them were offering no interest lines of credit and provided consumers with a break on loan payments. While the shutdown was terrible and something I wish had never happened, it provided the credit unions a chance to show the value they provide and their commitment to their members in our local communities.

Here’s your turn to say anything. You have the attention of roughly 5,000 credit union executives, volunteers, and supporters of our industry. Please indulge us with any information about one of members of Congress from California.

As someone who served in Vietnam and in the Marines for 26 years, I’m especially committed to the needs of our troops and our veterans. I applaud credit unions for making a concerted effort to serve those who have served our country. I look forward to continuing to work with them on more legislation in the future to provide greater opportunities for veterans and for all my constituents.

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