The White House on Monday slammed a House lawmaker pushing legislation that would delay implementation of a law to close a legal loophole that enables payday lenders to exceed predatory lending caps on service members.
Rep. Steve Stivers, a member of the House Financial Services Committee, has submitted an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that bars the law from taking effect until the Defense Department can prove that the Military Lending Act database run by the Defense Department meets industry standards for accuracy.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest called the amendment a provision "that would protect loopholes that allow predatory lenders to target military families.
"It's almost too difficult to believe that you'd have a member of Congress looking to carry water for the payday loan industry, and allow them to continue to target in a predatory fashion military families who in many case are already in a vulnerable financial state," Earnest said.
Earnest did not say whether the White House would veto the Defense bill over the provision, but said he could not imagine the amendment "earning the majority support in the United States Congress."
The Pentagon wants increased protections for its members, many of whom have used so-called payday lenders when strapped for cash, only to find their debt quickly spiral upward from penalties and high-interest when they cannot pay the loan on time.
Stivers is a colonel in the Ohio National Guard and deployed to Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar and Djibouti during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Stivers was in Ohio on Monday hosting a jobs fair. Military.com was unable to reach him for comment through his district offices.
The Pentagon last fall said it wanted to close loopholes in the law that allowed payday lenders to escape the 36 percent interest rate cap. The cap was implemented by the DoD and is enforced by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Richard Cordray, the bureau's director, told Military.com in December that the loophole in the current rules was "akin to sending a soldier into battle with a flak jacket but no helmet.
"To give our troops full-cover protection, the rules need to be expanded," he said.
Stivers' amendment is the second legislative attempt to delay the Defense Department's move to close the loophole.
House lawmakers earlier inserted a provision into the Defense Act that would barred the loophole from closing until at least 60 days after the Defense Department completed a study on how the credit regulation affected troops' ability to do their jobs, Bloomberg News reported last month.
But Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois, a combat wounded veteran, sponsored legislation now in the defense bill to protect service members that struck out the language calling for the study, which some said would postpone the loophole closure for a year.
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