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Fine print in credit card reform: concealed weapons at national parks

May 20, 2009 | 10:32 am

When Democrats retook the Senate and House in 2006, liberals rejoiced. Little noticed at the time was this intriguing fact: Democrats won their new majorities thanks in part to an infusion of new Democratic voices from the West and rural America.

Now, those new voices are joining with Republicans to create some unanticipated consequences.

Exhibit A is today's House vote on credit reform legislation, a bill that would force credit card companies to notify customers when they plan to raise their rates. It would also require the firms to post their policies online, where, presumably, even those of us with glasses could actually read the fine print. And the bill discourages anyone under 21 -- like college kids -- from using credit cards to pile up debt, requiring proof that they can repay the money or that they have backup from a parent or guardian.

President Obama, who wants to sign the legislation, has asked congressional leaders to have it on his desk by Memorial Day.

But Senate Republicans, working with new Democratic colleagues from more-rural states, inserted language in the bill giving gun owners the right to carry concealed weapons into the national parks.

"It's a shame," said California Sen. Barbara Boxer. "But you have to come to a realization around here that at this point in time, the NRA gets the votes."

Translation: the National Rifle Assn. is too strong to overcome. So if the White House and Democrats in Congress want to pass consumer-friendly credit card reform, they have to swallow hard. Today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is splitting the vote into two parts. While both will end up in the bill, at least urban Democrats can tell constituents they voted against the guns.

The provision's inclusion is a victory for Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, who insists the measure is less about guns than about states rights, ensuring that those with permits to carry weapons are not precluded from doing so when they enter parks or national preserves.

"Timing is everything in politics," he told the New York Times. "I don't like guns necessarily," he said. "What I want is those constitutional rights to be protected."

-- Johanna Neuman

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