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House Republicans Putting Predatory Lenders Before Military Families

Statement of Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen

RobertWeissman1Note: U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) is introducing a measure to block the U.S. Department of Defense from finalizing its rules to protect military families from predatory lenders until a host of technical certifications can be made for a database of active-duty military members. The U.S. House of Representatives will vote on Stivers’ plan as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act.

It is unconscionable for the Republican-led House to further delay a rule that, according to the Department of Defense, will protect military service members from predatory lenders and ensure the readiness of our armed forces.

It is a sign of just how indebted certain members of Congress are to corporate interests that a critical, commonsense regulation that is needed to protect military families can be sacrificed in service to the predatory lending industry. It is perhaps worth noting that Rep. Stivers received $42,500 in campaign contributions from the payday lending industry in 2014, making him the third-highest recipient in the cycle.

Having failed to delay the rule in committee, Republican members of Congress are now relying on public ignorance to claim that they are proposing only harmless technical changes. The Defense Department bent over backwards in the proposed rule to make sure that predatory lenders are protected from legal liability if they verify that they are lending to a service member, rather than a non-service member, by relying on a database created by the Defense Department.

In return for this good-faith gesture, the predatory lending industry and its paid-for allies in Congress have cynically and disingenuously argued that mistakes in the database would lead to lawsuits against lenders. In fact, lenders are protected if they rely on the database, regardless of whether there are mistakes in it. The public should not, and will not, buy this wholly fabricated excuse to delay this rule and allow predatory lenders to continue ripping off service members.

In April, when House Republicans tried to prioritize the predatory banks over the troops, public opposition led to their defeat. We hope and expect that enough Republicans in the House will act in the best interests of our active military members – rather than in the best interests of campaign donors – to once again defeat this amendment.