Credit Card Overhaul Bill Sent To Obama
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The United States Congress has moved to protect both your money and your right to carry a gun. They tackled both issues at the same time. And the way they did it tells you a lot about who's got influence in Washington right now. We heard on this program earlier this week that the gun lobby is on a roll. That continued when lawmakers voted to let licensed gun owners carry loaded weapons in national parks. They attached the measure to an unrelated plan, a so-called credit card holder's bill of rights. And that measure too passed over the protest of the banking industry.
Here's NPR's Audie Cornish.
AUDIE CORNISH: The measure to reign in credit card companies stops them from charging interest on debt that's already been paid, or from retroactively raising interest fees on outstanding balances, or from imposing excessive penalty fees. Bill sponsor and New York Democrat Carolyn Maloney says these sorts of practices had consumers backing the bill in droves.
Representative CAROLYN MALONEY (Democrat, New York): It got to the point where I literally could not walk down the street, go to the supermarket or ride the subway, or even go to the floor of Congress where I was not told about interest rates being hiked, even when consumers were playing by the rules.
CORNISH: Over the objections of banks and financial institutions, the Senate added more aggressive regulations. For instance, card issuers won't be able to raise the interest rate on late-paying customers for at least 60 days. But Senate lawmakers also attached an amendment that would allow loaded and concealed weapons in national parks. House legislators who support gun control were quick to register their dismay.
Representative RUSH HOLT (Democrat, New Jersey): To say that this amendment about guns in the park is out of left field insults the many ballplayers who over the years have held that position.
Representative MAXINE WATERS (Democrat, California): We're trying to protect consumers against the practices of these credit card companies that have been ripping them off for so long. And here we have this irrelevant amendment.
Representative SAM FARR (Democrat, California): This is a dumb amendment and Congress should be embarrassed that we've to vote on it.
CORNISH: That was Rush Holt of New Jersey and Maxine Waters and Sam Farr of California - all Democrats. They weighed in when House leaders decided there was only one way to get the Senate bill through the House. They split it in two and held separate votes - one for the credit card legislation and another on the gun amendment. Gun rights supporter such as Texas Republican Jeb Hensarling sounded more than a little pleased with the opportunity.
Representative JEB HENSARLING (Republican, Texas): I don't know how these two particular issues managed to get co-mingled. Having said that, I can't think of any bad time to stand up for the Second Amendment rights of our citizenry.
CORNISH: Currently visitors to national parks must keep weapons unloaded and stored under Interior Department regulations. The gun amendment would let people carry them where state laws allow. It was sponsored by Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, who seized an opportunity during last week's Senate debate to attach it to the popular credit card bill.
Senator TOM COBURN (Republican, Oklahoma): So the whole purpose of this amendment isn't a gotcha amendment, it's to say: does the Second Amendment mean something? Do states' rights mean anything? And should we have bureaucrats limiting individual rights?
CORNISH: What frustrates gun control supporters like Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy of New York is that many of her newer, more moderate Democratic colleagues agree with Coburn.
Representative CAROLYN MCCARTHY (Democratic, New York): For me to be here in a Democratic House with a Democratic leader, we have a Democratic Senate and a Democratic president, and we're just letting these gun bills go through.
CORNISH: Many lawmakers said they didn't want to put sweeping new protections for the credit card holders in jeopardy by dwelling on the gun provision. House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank.
Representative BARNEY FRANK (Democrat, Massachusetts): I disagree with the gun amendment. I wish it hadn't been in there. I don't control the rules in the Senate. I intend to vote against it. In my judgment the value of the credit card bill outweighs the harm that I think that would do.
CORNISH: So the House passed the two measures in separate votes and yoked them together for the president's desk. The credit card legislation goes into effect nine months from enactment. Mr. Obama is planning to sign the bill - guns and all - in the next few days.
Audie Cornish, NPR News, the Capitol.
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