- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 21, 2009

Congress on Wednesday approved and sent to President Obama a bill to rein in the credit card industry, but not before handing Republicans a rare legislative victory by including an unrelated amendment to allow visitors to carry a licensed gun in national parks.

Exploiting differences between Democratic liberals and conservative Blue Dogs, House Republicans were able to attract more than 100 Democratic votes for the gun amendment, which had been added to the bill in the Senate earlier this month.

“I wish [the gun provision] hadn’t been in there,” said Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat. But “in my judgment, the value of the credit card bill outweighs the harm that would do.”

Mr. Obama has indicated he will sign the bill, which comes amid growing popular outrage over rising credit card fees and penalties. A White House signing ceremony has been set for Friday afternoon.

The gun rider, sponsored by Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, would permit firearms in national parks and wildlife refuges as long as they are allowed by federal, state and local law.

In a parliamentary maneuver, House Democratic leaders were able to secure passage of the credit card bill by splitting it into two votes, one on the underlying legislation and another on the gun amendment. The move ensured that liberals opposed to the gun amendment would not vote to sink the overall bill and Democrats in conservative districts would not be faced with a politically difficult anti-gun vote.

The gun amendment passed the House on a 279-147 vote, while the credit card reform bill passed on a separate 361-64 vote. The Senate passed the combined bill on a 90-5 vote.

The Credit Cardholders Bill of Rights imposes several restrictions on card issuers, including a prohibition on retroactive rate increases and a requirement that companies notify consumers 45 days ahead of an impending rate increase. The bill also puts new restrictions on who can receive a card and lays out new rules on how much time borrowers must be given to pay their bills.

Republicans have long been seeking a federal rule that would codify the right of state gun laws to govern national park lands. A rule issued under President George W. Bush to allow concealed weapons in national parks was later overturned by a federal court.

Gun-control advocates and many Democrats bemoaned the inclusion of Mr. Coburn’s amendment in the popular credit card bill. But in the end, Democratic leaders decided it was a bitter pill worth swallowing.

Some Republicans and financial industry groups warn that the new rules could lead card issuers to limit credit at a time that consumers need it most. Edward L. Yingling, president of the American Bankers Association, said that restricting card companies’ ability to price credit for risk “fundamentally changes the entire business model of credit cards.”

“It is a fundamental rule of lending that an increase in risk means that less credit will be available and that the credit that is available will often have a higher interest rate,” Mr. Yingling said.

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