House uprising thwarts change to Patriot Act

Greg Nash

The House failed to pass legislation on Monday to enhance a provision of the Patriot Act that encourages banks to tip off federal authorities to suspected cases of terrorist financing.

Many libertarians warned of potential privacy violations if the measure went into effect, which helped prevent it from reaching the necessary two-thirds majority to pass through the fast-track process under which it was considered.

While the bill won a simple majority of 229-177, it didn’t clear the supermajority bar needed for passage. The procedure is typically used for noncontroversial bills that pass easily.

{mosads}Section 314 of the Patriot Act, which Congress enacted in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, encourages financial institutions and the federal government to share information with each other about transactions connected to terrorism.

Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.), who authored the bill with Rep. Maxine Waters (Calif.) the top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, said it would help clarify the intent of the law so that financial institutions can file reports of suspicious activity without fear of civil litigation.

“We must work to ensure that private financial institutions are not penalized for working with the federal government to combat terrorism financing,” Pittenger said during floor debate.

The House Liberty Caucus, chaired by Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), said the bill should have been considered in committee and warned it could allow the government to access Americans’ financial information based on what appears to be suspicious activity.

The caucus also panned the decision to consider the bill, which was introduced two weeks ago, under the fast-track procedure which also prohibits amendments.

“The Patriot Act should not be casually expanded,” the caucus said in a statement. “In short, if the regulations issued under the bill are consistent with current regulations, H.R. 5606 will permit the government to demand information on any American from any financial institution merely upon reasonable suspicion.”


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