Brownback clashes with Defense Department on auto dealer exemption

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) is fighting back against a Defense Department push to regulate auto dealers under the Wall Street overhaul bill.

In a letter to Undersecretary of Defense Clifford Stanley and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Brownback is seeking specific information about how auto dealers and auto-loan financing impact members of the military. 

The Defense Department, alongside the Obama administration, has pushed loudly for auto dealers to be covered under a new consumer financial protection office that is included in the Wall Street overhaul bill.

The House exempted auto dealers, and Brownback is the main backer of an amendment to the bill that would carve out the dealerships. The amendment could come up for a vote in the Senate this week. The National Automobile Dealers Association is strongly supporting the Brownback amendment.

In the letter, Brownback is seeking specific cases and examples of how auto dealer practices are hurting members of the military.

"Is it the position of the department that auto dealers pose a specific threat to military readiness?" Brownback wrote.

Brownback also took issue with the Defense Department relying on a "non-scientific poll" of complaints against dealerships. Brownback is asking the department why it did not look at a broad database of complaints maintained by the Federal Trade Commission.