Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth (D-IL 8) went to great lengths last week to ensure that expansions to the Military Lending Act, proposed by the Department of Defense (DoD) and supported by Woodstock Institute and advocates across the country, would go into effect as planned.
The Military Lending Act (MLA) protects servicemembers and their families from high-cost, predatory consumer credit products and caps annual percentage rates (APR) at 36 percent. Unfortunately, the current MLA definition of “consumer credit” is too narrow, allowing lenders to get around the APR cap and offer loan products that often lead to long-term debt problems. For this reason, DoD proposed expanding the MLA to cover all forms of consumer credit under the Truth in Lending Act. Woodstock Institute, along with advocates and policymakers across the country, submitted comments to DoD supporting this expansion. Congresswoman Duckworth authored a letter to DoD, signed by 63 members of Congress, urging DoD to move forward with the expansion. Illinois Congresswomen Schakowsky and Bustos as well as Congressmen Quigley and Gutierrez also signed the letter.
In a last-ditch effort to prevent the broadened protections from going into effect, payday lenders and their supporters in Congress included language in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would delay implementation by up to a year. Rep. Duckworth responded by drafting an amendment removing the language from the NDAA, which garnered bi-partisan support. On a vote of 32-30, the House Armed Services Committee voted to remove the language from the bill. Not only does her amendment prevent further delay, it also sends a strong message to the Senate Armed Services Committee that its version of the NDAA should not pose any barriers to the MLA expansion of servicemember protections and tells the payday industry that Congress will not allow the industry to use underhanded tactics that leave servicemembers vulnerable to high-cost, predatory loans.
Woodstock is grateful to Congresswoman Duckworth for her tireless efforts to protect servicemembers by reining in usurious and abusive lending.