WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama speaks to a veterans’ convention, then tapes an appearance with Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show” as concerns run high about Iran, veterans’ care and a shooting rampage against US Marines. Obama will travel to Pittsburgh to speak to the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ national convention, the day after the UN Security Council unanimously endorsed the nuclear deal with Iran. After Pennsylvania, Obama will hop a quick flight to New York to tape one of Stewart’s final episodes after 16 years hosting the Comedy Central show. On his first stop, Obama was to highlight a federal rule he’s finalizing on predatory lending and the military to make the case to the VFW that he’s working to make things better for America’s military families. Obama started off the week Monday signing a bill to allow all veterans to receive official IDs from Veterans Affairs even if they don’t meet certain criteria for VA services. Obama also planned to speak about serious persisting problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the White House said. The agency has been under intense scrutiny for more than a year over waitlists and other shortcomings in the VA health system. Last week, the VA said it can’t count how many veterans died while waiting to sign up for health care, and may have to close some hospitals if Congress does not address a $2.5 billion shortfall.
The military community has also been on edge over the killing of four Marines and a sailor last week in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Obama has pledged a prompt and thorough investigation into an attack that authorities have blamed on a 24-year-old Kuwait-born man. On Monday, South Carolina Gov Nikki Haley said she authorized a review of security at National Guard installations and recruitment centers, and US military officials have said security at recruitment centers should be reviewed. At “The Daily Show,” where Stewart’s tenure ends Aug 6, Obama will likely face questions about the nuclear deal he and world powers struck with Iran, to the dismay of Israel’s government, Republicans in Congress and even many Democrats. The White House is mounting a massive outreach campaign to try to win over skeptics and avert a congressional attempt to scuttle the deal, dispatching top officials daily to television shows and Capitol Hill.
The predatory lending rule, which the Obama administration publicly proposed last year, expands the categories of payday and shortterm loans subject to added protections under the Military Lending Act. The White House said in the past, lenders have exploited loopholes in the regulations and targeted military members with exorbitant interest rates. The revised version will cover larger or longer-term payday loans, plus title loans, installment loans and credit cards, subjecting them to an interest rate cap of 36 percent and other protections. That expansion had faced criticism that it limits troops’ access to financing options, but the White House said military families will still have plenty of options.
The White House said it made improvements to the proposal following public comments, but wouldn’t name any when asked. “The way I see it, when I drive the strip outside a military installation and count 20 fastcash lenders in less than 4 miles, that’s not a convenience, that’s a problem,” said Holly Petraeus, the assistant director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Obama’s visit comes five years to the day after he signed the Dodd-Frank Act, the financial regulation overhaul that created the CFPB. Republicans have continued to work to repeal major portions of the law, but Jeff Zients, the director of Obama’s National Economic Council, said Obama intends to veto any bills that undermine that law. After taping “The Daily Show,” Obama planned to raise money for Senate Democrats at a private home in New York City before returning to Washington. —AP