House of Representatives Votes to End Obama’s ‘Operation Choke Point’

Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The House of Representatives passed the Financial Institution Customer Protection Act on Thursday by a vote of 250-169.

The primary purpose of the bill is to end the Obama administration’s controversial “Operation Choke Point,” a secretive effort launched in 2013 to “choke off” legitimate businesses through the use of the federal government’s regulatory power over banks and third party payment processors.

All 240 Republicans who cast ballots voted in favor of the bill. They were joined by 10 Democrats.

“After years of remaining steadfast in bringing an end to Operation Choke Point, I am proud that the majority of my colleagues today joined me in casting their votes to ensure this program is brought to a halt and that greater transparency is achieved,” Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement released by the House Financial Services Committee, of which he is a member.

As Breitbart News reported in January 2014:

Breitbart News has learned that in 2013 the Obama administration launched an under-the-radar project, “Operation Choke Point,” which is designed to destroy three sectors of the private lending industry: third party payment processors (“TPPPs”), payday lenders, and online lenders.

The operation is headed by political operatives and career bureaucrats at the Department of Justice, the FDIC, and the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”). It appears to be the latest example of the Obama administration’s successful efforts to weaponize the apparatus of the federal government against people and industries it opposes ideologically.

Since 2014, Luetkemeyer has led the fight to bring Operation Choke Point to an end.

“Over the past couple of years I have introduced legislation, held meetings with and sent letters to Department of Justice (DOJ) and federal banking regulatory officials, and most of all, relentlessly strove to help those who have been negatively impacted by this illegal initiative,” he added.

“Together, the first step has been taken to ensure that federal banking agencies and DOJ can no longer intimidate financial institutions from offering financial services to licensed, legally-operating businesses that have been targeted not because of potential wrongdoing, but because of personal and political motivation,” Luetkemeyer concluded.

Financial Services Committee Chairman Rep. Jeb Hensarling added to the criticism of Operation Choke Point.

“Operation Choke Point is an outrage to the American people,” Hensarling said.

“For legally constituted businesses to have to fear that in the dark of night they’re going to be shut down by the awesome power of the Obama Administration is an outrage,” he added.

“If there was any justice in the Obama Justice Department, someone would be indicted over Operation Choke Point,” Hensarling concluded.
Dennis Shaul, the CEO of the Community Financial Services Association of America (CFSA), praised the House for its action.

“CFSA and its members thank Rep. Luetkeyemer for his leadership and applaud his colleagues for passing legislation that will help prevent Americans from being ruled at the mercy of the caprice and animus of unelected bureaucrats,” Shaul said in a statement.

“The fallout from this program has harmed legal businesses and limited the options of the consumers who patronize them,” Shaul added.

“This is especially evident in the short-term lending industry, where millions of Americans seek access to credit in order to make ends meet,” he concluded.

The bill now moves to the Senate, where it is unclear when it will be taken up for consideration.

As the Washington Examiner reported, Sen. Elizabeth Warren intends to lead the battle against Senate passage:

In a speech delivered on the Senate floor Wednesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., ratcheted up the rhetoric, saying that big banks have “gotten their buddies in Congress to line up behind a bill that would gut” the financial crimes law.

If the bill passes in the Senate, it will face a likely veto from President Obama, as the Daily Signal reported:

The White House voiced opposition to the bill, issuing a veto threat Tuesday against what the administration calls “unnecessary, overly burdensome” requirements.

“Restricting the federal banking agencies in this way could unnecessarily and dangerously hinder or compromise important law enforcement and national security efforts,” The White House said in a formal statement.

Should President Obama veto the Financial Institution Customer Protection Act, neither the House nor the Senate are expected to be able to secure the two-thirds vote necessary to override the veto.