Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah introduced a bill Wednesday that attempts to unravel the Justice Department’s controversial program Operation Choke Point, The Daily Signal has exclusively learned.
“Under President Obama’s reign, the DOJ has abandoned its longstanding tradition of staying out of politics and has instead become a partisan arm of the White House,” Cruz said. “The Obama administration initiated Operation Choke Point to punish law-abiding small businesses that don’t align with the president’s political leanings. The DOJ should not be abusing its power by trying to bankrupt American citizens for exercising their constitutional rights.”
The bill, called the Financial Institution Customer Protection Act, bans federal agencies that oversee banks from requesting or ordering banks to terminate customer accounts “unless the regulator has material reason.”
The measure also requires banking regulators to put in writing any “formal or informal” requests for account termination, and requires those regulators to file an annual report to Congress regarding those requests. To scale back Operation Choke Point or any similar initiatives, the bill also amends the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989.
An identical version of the bill passed the House of Representatives 250-169 in February with bipartisan support.
According to government documents, Operation Choke Point was designed by the Justice Department in 2012 to “attack Internet, telemarketing, mail, and other mass market fraud against consumers, by choking fraudsters’ access to the banking system.”
Under Operation Choke Point, critics believe that government officials abused their authority by pressuring banks to close down the accounts of entire industries the Obama administration doesn’t like, such as firearms sellers and payday lenders.
Since the program’s inception, many gun sellers, pawn shops, and short-term lenders reported their bank accounts being shut down.
Last Thursday, Michael J. Bresnick, one of President Barack Obama’s former top Justice Department officials behind Operation Choke Point said the program had “unintended but collateral consequences” on banks and U.S. consumers.
“Unfortunately, as the investigations continue, so too have one of the unintended but collateral consequences of such vigilance: mass de-risking.”
This is another example of Band-Aid legislation we shouldn’t need. It’s designed by one branch of government to stop another branch of government from infringing on people’s rights.
While I applaud their efforts for creating this legislation, it really should have been done over a year ago when Holder was AG and used his department to shut down numerous bank accounts of small business owners, primarily gun shops.
Now all they have to do is get it past McConnell, who’s probably not inclined to cooperate with Cruz after being called a liar, then O will have to sign off on it. Fat chance of that happening since it’s working perfectly with his plan to disarm Americans. Meanwhile Operation Choke Point continues choking the life out of small business owners.