Credit cards and gun rights - Huh?

A new wrinkle in the congressional effort to legislate curbs on credit card issuers: an unrelated provision to allow guns in national parks.

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By Jennifer Liberto, senior writer

Sen. Tom Coburn said his gun rights attachment to the credit card bill 'isn't a gotcha amendment.'

WASHINGTON ( -- What do guns have to do with credit cards?

Not much. Except they both share space on a bill that lawmakers want to deliver to President Obama's desk by Memorial Day.

In a surprising move, the Senate voted 67-29 on Tuesday to attach a measure that would allow guns in national parks to a bill that cracks down on credit card fees.

"It's just wacky," said Jon Houston, an aide speaking on behalf of Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., the bill's chief House sponsor who has been pushing for a crack down on credit card practices for two years.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., saw an opportunity to grab on to a comparatively fast-moving target, since lawmakers are under the gun to finalize a credit card bill in the next 11 days. Keeping pressure on Congress, President Obama held a town hall in New Mexico on Thursday inviting consumers who had written or called the White House about their credit card companies.

Coburn, speaking on the Senate floor, said his move "isn't a 'gotcha' amendment" but a genuine step to protect the Second Amendment. The measure would reverse a federal judge's decision in March block a last-minute rule change by President George W. Bush to allow park visitors to carry concealed weapons.

"It was just an opportunity," said Coburn spokesman Don Tatro. "Congressional leadership has been trying to keep it from happening; and this was just the first opportunity."

Capitol Hill experts don't expect the gun amendment to kill the credit card bill. In fact, the gun measure has a small chance of surviving as crunch time on the bill approaches. But the National Rifle Association isn't declaring victory yet.

"Prior to the ink drying to anything that's signed, it's rare for a piece of legislation to not have ghosts haunting it," said NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam. "Anything can happen."

The credit card legislation has been a long work in process. The House passed a bill in 2008 and again earlier this year to crack down on fee and interest rates hikes. Additionally, the Federal Reserve passed its own rule changes that would also crack down on fee hikes starting July 2010.

Credit card legislation stalled in the Senate in past years but has more momentum this year. After week of negotiations between the top Democrat and Republican members of the Senate Banking Committee, lawmakers emerged with a deal on Monday.

The full Senate has been chewing over the legislation all week.

The pressure to deliver a bill to Obama by Memorial Day makes it attractive to unrelated amendments like Coburn's. Unlike the House, the Senate doesn't have strict rules forcing amendments to be related to a bill.

For example, Sen. David Vitter, R-La., unsuccessfully tried to attach an immigration provision that would have banned credit cards from going to anyone who isn't an American citizen.

On Thursday, the Senate continued wading through another 30 amendments to the credit card bill, with bill sponsor Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., pleading with lawmakers to be more reasonable.

"At some point we need to get moving and get this done," said an exasperated Dodd, while complaining about the credit card agenda being "taken over by other items."

Once the Senate finally votes, which could be anytime between later Thursday through next Tuesday, lawmakers have a few short days to hash out the differences in the House and Senate bill. To top of page

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