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House Approves Amendments to Block Sessions’ Asset Forfeiture Directive

In a rebuke to Jeff Sessions, the House of Representatives approved several bipartisan amendments to block his asset forfeiture directive.

Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto/Sipa/NewscomBastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto/Sipa/NewscomThe Republican-led House of Representatives approved three amendments to a large spending bill Tuesday that would attempt to block Attorney General Jeff Sessions' civil asset forfeiture directive.

In July, Sessions announced he was ending restrictions put in place by former attorney general Eric Holder on when federal law enforcement could "adopt" asset forfeiture cases from state and local police.

Asset forfeiture—a practice that allows police to seize property suspected of being connected to criminal activity, even when the owner is not charged with a crime—has come under bipartisan criticism in recent years. Holder's directive was intended to stop local police from using federal adoptions to bypass stricter state asset forfeiture laws passed in response to those criticisms.

Sessions' July order was met with outrage from not just Democrats, but also several Republican lawmakers who have opposed the practice. As Reason previously reported, Republican and Democrat members introduced amendments in August to try and use Congress' power of the purse to block the Justice Department from being able to spend any funds on implementing Sessions' order:

Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), a vocal critic of asset forfeiture, introduced an amendment that would block the Justice Department from funding any of the activities prohibited by a 2015 directive from former attorney general Eric Holder limiting the program[...]

Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) and Tim Walberg (R-MI) are asking for a change blocking the Justice Department from funding Sessions' directive. The department's forfeiture program existed prior to Sessions' order, so it's unclear what effects the amendments would have if passed.

The House approved Amash, Raskin and Walberg's amendments, which also had bipartisan cosponsors, by a nearly unanimous voice vote Tuesday.

"Under current civil forfeiture law, the system is ripe for abuse and has undermined the constitutional rights of far too many Americans," Walberg said in a statement. "We should not accept a system where the government can seize innocent people's property without charging them with a crime."

Advocacy groups such as the Institute for Justice, a libertarian-leaning public interest law firm that has challenged asset forfeiture laws in several states, applauded the votes.

"Civil forfeiture is one of the greatest threats to private property rights," said Institute for Justice attorney Robert Everett Johnson. "But today, hundreds of members of Congress came together and voted to block an alarming expansion of this government power."

A Reason investigation earlier this year showed asset forfeiture in Chicago primarily hit the city's poor, minority neighborhoods. An investigation by the Nevada Policy Research Institute in Las Vegas had similar findings.

"In a rebuke to the Justice Department, the House voted today to stand for civil liberties, and curb the federal government's ability to take a person's property without due process of law," said Holly Harris, the TKTKT of the Justice Action Network, a bipartisan criminal justice advocacy group. "It's astonishing that, here in America, someone's property can be forfeited even when that person has never been charged with a crime."

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Photo Credit: Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto/Sipa/Newscom

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  • AlmightyJB||

    Good for them. Sessions is terrible. Trump should dump him.

  • SQRLSY One||

    Trumpty Dumpty, He's quite off-the-wall,
    Trumpty Dumpty won't stay in His toilet stall
    He just goes ahead and takes His shits,
    Totally regardless of whereever He sits
    Whenever He simply, no way, can sleep,
    He Twits us His thoughts, they're all SOOO deep!
    He simply must, He MUST, Twit us His bird,
    No matter the words, however absurd!
    He sits and snorts His coke with a spoon,
    Then He brazenly shoots us His moon!
    They say He'll be impeached by June,
    Man, oh man, June cannot come too soon!
    So He sits and jiggles His balls,
    Then He Twitters upon the walls
    "Some come here to sit and think,
    Some come here to shit and stink
    But I come here to scratch my balls,
    And read the writings on the walls
    Here I sit, My cheeks a-flexin'
    Giving birth to another Texan!
    He who writes these lines of wit,
    Wraps His Trump in little balls,
    He who reads these lines of wit,
    Eats those loser's balls of shit!"

  • p3orion||

    Don't quit your day job.

  • crufus||

    The only good thing about Sessions as Attorney General is that he is no longer in the Senate.

    Now if they can just dump him as AG he would be gone.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Serious question, are progressives against asset forfeiture as a broad concept? If so, why?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    That lady is somewhat nice, I used to know people who said they should take their money and also kill them.

  • Bra Ket||

    Yeah I think a statement like "Civil forfeiture is one of the greatest threats to private property rights" is rather absurd. I guess they've given up on property rights in a classical liberal sense, and have reduced themselves to accepting the little basket of limited and temporary protections allowed in the modern "social contract" world.

    The only protection our private property gets in the US is they supposed to only take it via an orderly process that follows various procedural rules that the majority (i.e. current mob in charge) agreed to. Taxation is the greatest threat to private property rights by far, in terms of victims and dollars.

  • buddhastalin||

    Progressives learned to hate civil asset forfeiture when a Republican came to be in charge of it at the federal level.

  • Longtobefree||

    What difference, at this point, does it make if your fourth amendment rights are violated by the federal government or the state government?

  • DenverJ||

    Federalism?

  • Juice||

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Nice.

  • Tamfang||

    You anarchists are gonna look silly when the crime lab examines that $60 and proves that 'Juan', if that's his real name, was the mastermind behind all the Satanic daycare sacrifices.

  • Sports Reporter Charles Manson||

    So will this die in the Senate, or be watered down in the reconciliation process?

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    Why does Amash hate our heroes in blue?

  • Agammamon||

    The Republican-led House of Representatives approved three amendments to a large spending bill Tuesday that would attempt to block Attorney General Jeff Sessions' civil asset forfeiture directive.

    This.

    This is why I thought Trump was the least worst candidate. If Clinton had won her AG would have done the same thing as Sessions (after all, Obama's and Clinton's AG were all drug warriors until they reached 'lame duck' in the political arena) the Republicans wouldn't have done anything more than bitch about it.

    Its good to see a party that has the balls to openly disagree - we'll see if the have the strength to endure it though.

  • Migrant Log Chipper||

    Blind squirrel, meet nut......

  • Longtobefree||

    So everyone now accepts it as normal that legislation is required to somewhat limit the government from violating the constitution?
    To the barricades!

  • Necron 99||

    Walberg said in a statement. "We should not accept a system where the government can seize innocent people's property without charging them with a crime."

    Well, there's your problem, you actually believe people can be innocent. Need more laws.

  • mpercy||

    But none of them signed on to actually repeal the forfeiture laws...

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