WASHINGTON (6/2/14)--Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) and a bipartisan group of five members of Congress successfully offered an amendment to the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Bill early Friday morning that denies funds to operate the "Operation Choke Point' program, an amendment that was passed by voice vote on the House floor. The measure has not been considered by the Senate.
Operation Choke Point was introduced in 2013 as an initiative from the U.S. Department of Justice, allowing its Financial Fraud Task Force to investigate whether financial institutions and payment processing companies were enabling fraudulent activity. It eventually came under fire, with opponents claiming the initiative is separating consumers from access to financial services.
"Despite vigorous bipartisan congressional oversight, including letters, hearings and direct conversations with the regulators, we continue to hear from small businesses in our communities that they are unable to obtain basic banking services such as bank accounts and lines of credit due to activities associated with 'Operation Choke Point,'" reads a letter submitted Thursday and signed by Luetkemeyer and Reps. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), Kevin Yoder (R-Kansas), Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) and Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.).
This letter is a follow-up to one signed by 23 members of Congress in March, stating that they have received numerous reports that Operation Choke Point enforcement was causing many financial institutions to be discouraged from processing lawful transactions.
The Credit Union National Association submitted a letter to the House Financial Services Committee in April, stating that while CUNA support's the federal government's role in fighting fraud, it was concerned that Operation Choke Point was creating serious risks to consumers and the economy (News Now April 8).
The amendment passed Thursday prohibits the DOJ from using funds in the Commerce, Justice and Science bill to carry out Operation Choke Point.