Find Out If Your Lawmaker Voted to End Operation Choke Point
The House of Representatives concluded a tense debate Thursday by voting 250-169 to end a controversial Obama administration program called Operation Choke Point.
Critics say the secretive program, run by the Department of Justice, has been used to target politically unpopular industries such as gun sellers.
“We’re elated,” Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., one of the bill’s co-sponsors, told The Daily Signal after the vote. “We’ve been working on this for two and a half years—we’ve been lied to, put off and dissed by the different regulatory agencies, and we’ve prevailed.”
Operation Choke Point was launched by the Justice Department in 2013 as a way to fight fraud by pressuring banks to “choke off” access to credit and other banking services by merchants and industries the administration considered at a high risk for fraud.
Without access to banking services, it is difficult—if not impossible—for a business to survive.
Republicans who have been fighting the program believe the Obama administration abused its power under Operation Choke Point by targeting entire lines of legal industries. Some members view the tactics as “reminiscent of the IRS targeting of conservatives,” as Rep. French Hill, R-Ark., said Thursday on the House floor.
Businesses targeted under Operation Choke Point include gun sellers, pawn shops and short-term lenders. The National Rifle Association is among groups that have strongly come out against it.
“Congressman Luetkemeyer’s legislation puts an end to the Obama administration’s unwarranted attacks upon a legal and thriving sector of the American economy,” said Chris Cox, executive director of NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action. “On behalf of the NRA’s 5 million members, I’d like to thank Congressman Luetkemeyer for his steadfast support of the Second Amendment and congratulate him on the passage of H.R. 766.”
Luetkemeyer’s bill, the Financial Institution Customer Protection Act, bans federal agencies that oversee banks from requesting or ordering that banks terminate customer accounts “unless the regulator has material reason.”
“We are debating a bill on the floor of the House that says the government can’t force banks to shut down legal banking accounts,” Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., said on the House floor. “The fact that we have to have this debate frightens me.”