- The Washington Times - Friday, June 3, 2016

The head of the Democratic National Committee reversed course Friday and backed the Obama administration’s bid to rein in “payday” lenders, after prior support for House legislation that would have blocked those very regulations threatened to deepen a rift between her and the progressive wing of her party.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida is one of eight Democrats who linked arms with 16 Republicans in support of the “Consumer Protection and Choice Act,” which would shield states that already license and regulate payday lending from new federal regulations.

Yet on Friday, she praised a federal bid by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to crack down on lenders who issue short-term loans, typically due on the borrower’s next payday, while charging high interest rates. Seven in 10 borrowers can’t repay on time, so they take out a series of new loans, kicking off a cycle of mounting fees and interest that officials are calling a “long-term debt trap.”

New federal regulations, posted Thursday, would require lenders to figure out if a borrower can actually repay their short-term loan, and cut off repeated attempts by lenders to debit money from consumers’ bank accounts, which can trigger penalties for insufficient funds.

“As a strong supporter and partner of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in Congress, I stand with the CFPB in its efforts to protect Americans from predatory lending,” Mrs. Wasserman Schultz said. “From the outset of this process, I have said that I trust the CFPB to do what’s right for consumers, and these proposed rules are an important step towards that critical goal.”

The congresswoman has been trying to stave off questions about her leadership in a tumultuous Democratic primary, with Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont accusing her of tilting the scales toward former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the establishment front-runner.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat who frequently champions tighter financial regulations, had warned Democrats to side with the CFPB over influential lenders who will balk at the rules. She says payday lending is a $7 billion industry that’s purchased influence in Congress, with GOP and Democrats alike.

“Congress wasn’t elected to help predatory lenders. If anyone tries to block or delay the [hashtag] CFPB payday rules, it’s time to fight back hard,” Mrs. Warren said on her Twitter page.

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