WASHINGTON -- Differences between the House and Senate are holding up final approval of legislation to increase the government's power to spy on, detain and punish suspected terrorists.
The House pushed through an anti-terrorism package on a 337-79 vote Friday; the Senate had passed a largely identical measure, 96-1, the night before.
"I commend the House for passing anti-terrorism legislation just one day after the Senate took action," President Bush said.
Both the House and Senate anti-terrorism measures would expand the FBI's wiretapping authority, impose stronger penalties on those who harbor or finance terrorists and increase punishment of terrorists.
Before passage, however, House leadership insisted on changing the Senate package to put a five-year expiration deadline on the most intrusive of the new measures, including roving wiretaps.
It also dumped a Senate money-laundering provision, which is moving separately through the House.
That move caused the bill to come to a screeching halt. The measure now goes back to the Senate for re-approval, which Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said won't happen without the money-laundering provision.
"We will not support a counterterrorism bill that does not have money-laundering provisions in it," Daschle said. "Whether it's done in conference or whether it's done in the House of Representatives, it must be done, and we will insist that it be done."
The legislation authorizes the government to monitor businesses that are part of the ancient, nearly paperless banking system known as "hawala." The al-Qaida network of Osama bin Laden, prime suspect in the terror attacks, is believed to move money through the hawala system.
It also makes it a crime to smuggle more than $10,000 in cash over U.S. borders and gives the Treasury secretary authority to require special record-keeping and reporting rules for U.S. banks and other financial institutions.
The bill now will most likely go to a House-Senate conference committee, which would have to work out the details of the final package.
Key lawmakers promised that finding a compromise won't require the year it took to finish anti-terrorism legislation after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. "We will complete that conference quickly," said Senate Judiciary chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
Vice President Dick Cheney called on Americans to insist Congress pass the anti-terrorism bill now.
"Every day that goes by when we don't have all the tools we think we need to find out who these people are and run them to the ground is one more day when we could conceivably suffer the consequences of undue delay," Cheney said.
* * * *
The House anti-terrorism bill is H.R. 3108. The Senate bill is S. 1510.
* * * *
On the Net:
Bill texts: http://thomas.loc.gov
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.