The White House is accusing some House Republicans of looking out for payday lenders instead of military families with new rules restrictions under consideration in this week's defense authorization bill debate.
At issue is an amendment proposed by Ohio Republican Rep. Steve Stivers that would require the secretary of defense to certify that the Defense Department's internal lenders database meets "prevailing industry standards for the availability and accuracy of commercial databases" and allows real-time updates before new regulations regarding lending rules for service members are finalized.
Supporters have called the move a final check to ensure that lending companies are not unfairly blacklisted from serving troops and their families.
But critics say the amendment is a transparent attempt to slow new expanded rules designed to crack down on predatory lending that targets service members and their families.
On Monday, in response to reporters' questions, White House spokesman Josh Earnest called the potential addition to the annual authorization bill a significant concern for President Obama.
"It's almost too difficult to believe that you'd have a member of Congress looking to carry water for the payday loan industry, and allow them to continue to target in a predatory fashion military families who in many cases are already in a vulnerable financial state," he said.
Earnest said he "can't imagine (the amendment) earning the majority support in the United States Congress."
A bipartisan group of lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee narrowly stripped similar language from their authorization bill draft last month, during an all-night debate over defense policy.
That provision would have required a new report from the Defense Department before the expanded Military Lending Act provisions could be put into effect, likely delaying the process for at least another year.
Republican leaders on the armed services committee defended the move as one of basic business fairness, but lost the legislative fight by a 32-30 vote.
The 2006 lending law was passed by Congress after reports of payday lenders charging unusually high interest rates to troops -- 400 percent or more, in some cases — and misleading borrowers about the long-term debt they could incur.
The Pentagon's initial implementation rules were confined to payday loans, vehicle title loans and tax refund anticipation loans. But last September, defense officials proposed new rules that would expand the types of credit covered by the maximum 36-percent interest rate that can be charged to service members and their dependents.
The full House will consider whether to insert the Stivers amendment into the defense bill during floor debate this week.
The White House has threatened to veto the authorization bill over a number of provisions, including language that would keep open the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay Naval Station in Cuba and would use temporary war funding to get around military spending caps for fiscal 2016.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.