Sens. Lee and Cruz Take Aim at DOJ’s Operation Choke Point

April 13, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) today introduced legislation fighting the Obama administration’s Operation Choke Point, a Department of Justice (DOJ) initiative that unconstitutionally sought to choke off access to banking services for sellers of firearms and other lawful business enterprises. This legislation sponsored by Sens. Cruz and Lee serves as a companion bill to U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer’s (R-Mo.) Financial Institution Customer Protection Act (H.R. 766), which passed the House with bipartisan support in February.

“Our right to bear arms – a right granted by God and protected by the Constitution – is fundamental to the protection of all our other rights,” Sen. Lee said. “An executive branch bent on taking away this right, through any administrative means necessary, is a danger to all Americans. That is why I am proud to co-sponsor the Financial Institution Customer Protection Act, which would end the federal government’s ability to abuse financial regulations to target firearm proprietors like they did during Operation Choke Point.”

“Under President Obama’s reign, the DOJ has abandoned its longstanding tradition of staying out of politics and has instead become a partisan arm of the White House,” Sen. Cruz said. “The Obama administration initiated Operation Choke Point to punish law-abiding small businesses that don’t align with the President’s political leanings. The DOJ should not be abusing its power by trying to bankrupt American citizens for exercising their constitutional rights. I am proud to stand with Sen. Lee and Rep. Luetkemeyer to stop this insidious manipulation by the administration and look forward to sending this legislation to the President’s desk.”

“I am pleased that my colleagues, Sens. Cruz and Lee, recognized the importance of the bipartisan Financial Institution Customer Protection Act and filed legislation that is identical to what the House of Representatives passed earlier this year,” Rep. Luetkemeyer said. “Today’s action confirms that Americans, all across the country, are speaking up after having been affected by Operation Choke Point. The Senators recognize the need for greater transparency in the Department of Justice and federal banking agencies. Operation Choke Point runs contrary to who we are as Americans, and I want to thank Sens. Cruz and Lee for joining me in this effort. I look forward to working with them to encourage the Senate to bring this bill to the floor in the very near future.”

Last November in a full Judiciary Committee hearing, Sen. Cruz sharply questioned the Hon. Stuart Delery, a nominee for U.S. Associate Attorney General, who approved Operation Choke Point and has since resigned from his post.

The full text of the Senate version of the Financial Institution Customer Protection Act of 2016 is available here and additional details of the bill are available below:

· The Financial Institution Customer Protection Act of 2016 would prohibit any federal banking agency from ordering banks to terminate customer accounts unless the regulator has a material reason other than “reputational risk,” the term used by the Obama Administration to identify and target “high risk” businesses like firearms and ammunition sellers, pawnshops, and short-term lenders.

· The bill also includes a section that amends the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act (FIRREA), which federal agencies have manipulated to implement Operation Choke Point. The change ensures that the original intent of the law is preserved, so that fraud against or by financial institutions can be penalized.

Today, The Daily Signal covered Sens. Cruz’s and Lee’s efforts to push back against Operation Choke Point. That article can be found here.