Republicans Obstruct Movement On Anti-Fraud Legislation

WASHINGTON (Thursday, April 23, 2009) – Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) expressed disappointment Thursday that a few Senate Republicans have stalled the Senate’s consideration of bipartisan legislation to strengthen the tools available to law enforcement to combat financial and mortgage fraud, and protect the economic recovery efforts.

Leahy introduced the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act (FERA) in February, and the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Leahy chairs, held a hearing shortly after the introduction.  The Committee overwhelmingly reported the legislation in early March.  The Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was forced to file a cloture motion in order to proceed to the bill earlier this week. 

When the Senate was able to consider the fraud enforcement measure, a dozen and one half amendments were offered, of which five were adopted and one was defeated in a roll call vote.  Every amendment offered relevant to the underlying fraud enforcement bill has been considered.  While the remaining pending amendments are extraneous to the underlying fraud enforcement legislation, Leahy and the Democratic leadership proposed to hold votes on each amendment.   Reid was forced to file for cloture to conclude consideration of the bipartisan legislation when the agreement was rejected, and a handful of Senate Republicans insisted on extending debate and offering additional, unrelated amendments.

Leahy said, “I think the Majority leader is doing the only thing he can do in this case.  And I’m surprised.  As he said, this legislation has strong bipartisan support, and bipartisan sponsorship.  It is designed to try to protect people from losing their retirement funds, their homes, their savings for their children to go to college – to protect the American from the mortgage lenders.  Everybody, across the political spectrum, has endorsed the bill.  We voted on every amendment to this bill.  It’s unfortunate for the people who are seeing their life savings being ripped off by unscrupulous criminals, that we can’t criminalize them in such a way to stop it.  I will be here to vote.  The irony is that the bill, when it finally gets to a vote, will probably pass overwhelmingly.  I thank the leader for what he’s doing.”

The Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act will make necessary changes to criminal laws, including criminal fraud, securities law, and money laundering laws; increase the funding available to federal law enforcement agencies to combat mortgage fraud and financial fraud; and revise the False Claims Act to ensure that the government can recover taxpayer dollars lost to fraud.

On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) filed cloture on the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act.  A vote on the motion to invoke cloture is scheduled for a rare Saturday session.

The anti-fraud legislation is supported by the Obama administration, which stated in a Statement of Administration Policy on April 20 that it “strongly supports enactment” of the legislation.  On March 25, FBI Director Robert Mueller testified about the critical need for added resources to combat fraud and other white collar crime.  The Department of Justice, the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Inspector General of the Department of Housing and Urban Development each support the measure.  The legislation has also been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys, and Taxpayers Against Fraud.  The Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act is sponsored by 19 Senators.

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