At Home During Recess, Lawmakers Hear From Voters Opposing #WrongCHOICEAct
By Carter Dougherty
Protesters gathered outside the Texas offices of Rep. Jeb Hensarling had one thing on their mind last week: the #WrongCHOICEAct.
It may not match the (literal) life-and-death drama over health care but the amount of organized pressure on lawmakers over the Financial CHOICE Act, H.R. 10, has been remarkable for an issue — financial regulation — that doesn’t usually stimulate a lot of lively conversation at the water cooler. Then again, the possibility of losing homes and life savings after another financial crisis does matter to ordinary Americans.
As the House of Representatives prepares for a floor vote, this outlandish Wall Street giveaway is enjoying a surprising burst of attention around the country.
After repeated efforts to secure a meeting with Hensarling about the bill, the Texas Organizing Project rallied protesters against the bill with a simple message:
“Hensarling would rather meet with Wall Street lobbyists than his own constituents, so we’re coming to him,” said Rashd Ibrahim, an organizer with the group. “We remember the crisis and the recession, and we’re here to make sure that Hensarling doesn’t send us backwards.”
In Kentucky, Indivisible Bluegrass, one of the many chapters of this new national network of progressive activists, is turning the CHOICE Act into a major talking point against Rep. Andy Barr. Jane Eller of Indivisible Bluegrass raised the issue of financial reform in remarks to the March for Truth last weekend in Lexington. In meeting after meeting and call after call with Barr’s staff, the group has challenged the congressman’s claim to be working on behalf of small banks and not Wall Street.
“We have found that there are many many ways not to tell the truth,” Eller told a local TV station. “People skirt the truth, politicians skirt the truth. They don’t really lie necessarily but they don’t tell you the whole truth.”
Voters who couldn’t reach Rep. Sean Duffy of Wisconsin arrived at his Hudson office with a faux check for the heaping sums of money the congressman received from Wall Street in the last election cycle. (Rounded off: a cool $1 million.) They did get to make their case to Duffy’s staff.
New Jersey’s Rep. Tom MacArthur, under intense pressure over his role in helping pass the Republican health care bill, also came in for a scolding over his vote to gut Wall Street reform. Not only did he help pass H.R. 10 through committee, he added his name as a co-sponsor as it headed to the floor.
“For consumers the so-called CHOICE Act is to Dodd-Frank and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau what the AHCA is to the Affordable Care Act,” said Beverly Brown Ruggia, Financial Justice Organizer for New Jersey Citizen Action. “Thanks to Rep MacArthur of AHCA infamy, this bill will advance to a full vote on the House floor.”
In Michigan, another Indivisible chapter has taken on Rep. Dave Trott over the CHOICE Act and Trott’s effort to pass legislation that could benefit his family law firm, which handles residential foreclosures. There and elsewhere, the hashtag #WrongCHOICEAct has become a focal point of social media on Wall Street reform.
On Long Island, meanwhile, a spirited crowd gathered to protest the votes of New York Reps. Lee Zeldin and Peter King for the legislation.
In other states, editorial boards and op-ed writers took lawmakers to task for backing this legislation. Rep. Trey Hollingsworth was one of a number of Indiana lawmakers, the Fort Wayne (Indiana) Gazette-Journal pointed out, who took tens of thousands of dollars from the financial services industry before doing Wall Street’s bidding. In West Virginia, advocates criticized their representatives for going along with the bill. In the Denver Post, a retired Air Force officer highlighted the CHOICE Act’s effects on servicemembers and veterans.
Because the CHOICE Act would eliminate the ability of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to regulate predatory payday lending, groups that have long been active on the issue are mobilizing to defend financial reform in Oklahoma, Colorado, and Ohio, among other states