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Congressman John Ratcliffe

Representing the 4th District of Texas

U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe Rebukes Admin Officials on Operation Choke Point Overreach

June 16, 2015

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Thank you Mr. Speaker,

In America, the most fundamental principle of our criminal justice system is that we are innocent until proven guilty. Operation Choke Point turns that sacred tenet on its head.

When President Obama and his Administration uses his agencies like the DOJ and FDIC to target legal businesses without due process, without any public debate, and when he bases his attacks--not on the rule of law, but instead on his own political beliefs—well, that is a tragic breakdown of the checks and balances and separation of powers that our Founding Fathers deliberately designed.

Mr. Speaker, Operation Choke point is wrong, it’s just flat out wrong.

Folks in all across the 4th district of Texas—in cities and towns like Denison, Sherman, Bonham, Paris, Texarkana, Sulphur Springs, Rockwall---they want to run their businesses and enjoy their freedoms without the fear of unwarranted persecution from a president that has clearly overstepped his authority, time and time again. Many of the Texans I represent are deeply troubled and concerned about Operation Choke Point, an initiative which pressures banks and others in the financial industry to deny access to services to businesses like gun sellers and coal producers. They view this operation as a blunt weapon that targets and stigmatizes entire industries that the Obama Administration dislikes, instead of an honest effort to get rid of actual, specific bad actors.

As a direct result of Operation Choke Point, legitimate businesses in Texas and across the country have been forced to close, simply because the president and his activist bureaucrats have an agenda. 

When you “weaponize” your government to go after folks you don’t like and target your political enemies, that’s the way Third World governments operate – not the greatest county the world has ever seen.

Mr. Speaker, this is the United States of America, and in this country our government should not go after our political enemies. This is especially outrageous when the Administration targets the Bill of Rights---because when you specifically target gun dealers and ammunition manufacturers, it’s an affront to and assault on the Second Amendment. No president and no administration are above the Constitution.  Period.

I’ve met recently met with far too many honest, hard-working law, abiding folks in the gun industry that have been politically targeted by this program.

We cannot allow the Obama Administration to continue to target legitimate businesses like gun stores and cigar shops through Operation Choke Point, just because they don’t like what they sell. Pressuring and forcing banks to stop engaging with important, legal industries needs to stop.

We cannot allow unelected bureaucrats to take such a brazen back door assault on legitimate businesses and the hard-working, law-abiding citizens who own and operate them.

In July of 2014, one of the Judiciary subcommittees I’m now on held a hearing on Operation Choke Point. Because of that hearing, and the due process violations revealed, the FDIC announced that it would rescind its list of “high-risk merchants.”

This move was an apparent recognition of the fact that Operation Choke Point is inflicting an unacceptable level of collateral damage on legitimate businesses that are losing access to financial services.

But despite this acknowledgement and admission at the top, companies across my district tell me that the Administration’s foot soldiers on the ground haven’t gotten the message. The harassment continues and it is simply unacceptable.

Mr. Speaker, we should stand up for the rights of every American. I’m saddened to see a president, who is so out of touch with what has made this country great, so out of touch that he would use an army of unelected watch dog bureaucrats to attack businesses that don’t toe the idealogical line with his administration.

We cannot and will not stand for this, and I appreciate all my constituents who have reached out to my office to share their stories on this matter.

Congressional oversight demands that we refuse to step aside and let this unprovoked attack on our rights be ignored.

Mr. Speaker, I will continue to stand watch against this overreach. My colleagues and I will not allow our constituents’ rights to be violated and our Constitution to be trampled.

Thank you and I yield back my time.