U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., part of the congressional leadership as senior deputy majority whip, took to the House floor on Thursday to support legislation reining in the U.S. Department of Justice’s “Operation Choke Point.”
“Operation Choke Point has been used by administration bureaucrats to pressure and force banks to abruptly cut off financial relationships with law-abiding businesses the administration unfairly considers objectionable or a ‘reputational risk,’ such as firearm and ammunition dealers, cigar shops and manufacturers, pawn stores and payday lenders," Ross’ office noted. “Ross delivered his speech in conjunction with his vote to pass, H.R. 766, the Financial Institution Customer Protection Act of 2015, which prohibits a federal banking agency from formally or informally suggesting, requesting, or ordering a banking institution to terminate either a specific customer account, or group of customer accounts, or otherwise restricting or discouraging it from entering into or maintaining a financing relationship with a specific customer or group of customers, unless: (1) the agency has a material reason to do so, and (2) the reason is not based solely on reputation risk. Ross is a co-sponsor of H.R. 766."
Ross' comments were as follows:
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H.R. 766, the Financial Institution Customer Protection Act, offered by my colleague and friend, Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, to prohibit the Department of Justice from cutting off financial support to law-abiding businesses through its Operation Choke Point program.
Created under the guise of a program to root out banking fraud and money laundering, Operation Choke Point has been used by administration bureaucrats to pressure and force banks to end relationships with legitimate businesses the administration considers objectionable or a “reputational risk.”
Like all Americans, entrepreneurs and small businesses across our great country come from very different walks of life.
This administration has targeted small, legitimate businesses, such as firearm and ammunition dealers, cigar shops and manufacturers, pawn stores, payday lenders, and others.
The backdoor effort to target legitimate businesses it simply does not like, and to coerce banks to choke off relationships with these businesses, is contrary to our nation’s fundamental principles of freedom.
These targeted business owners do not receive a note from the bank stating that "Due to Operation Choke Point, we regretfully must end our financial relationship with your business."
This legislation, introduced by my colleague from Missouri, will prohibit any federal banking agency from suggesting, requesting, or ordering a depository institution to terminate a customer account, or prohibiting an institution from maintaining a banking relationship with a specific customer, unless the agency has a material reason to do so, and that reason is not solely based on risk to reputation.
This bipartisan commonsense legislation passed the Financial Services Committee by a vote of 35-19 in July 2015. In voting to pass H.R. 766 today, I will be voting to rein in this out-of-control administration and its assault on legal small businesses in Florida and across the country.
U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., was elected to Congress in 2010.