According to a post on the Democrats’ Senate Floor Twitter feed, 78 Senators voted in favour of Orrin Hatch’s Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act (S. 1269), which includes the passport revocation provisions discussed yesterday: to revoke passports from people with US$50,000 of unpaid taxes & fines, or people who never obtained or do not provide a Social Security number.
In November 2014, American Citizens Abroad issued a position paper explaining why passport revocation is an inappropriate and dangerous means of tax enforcement. Patrick Weil, in a Yale Law Journal article, has detailed the long history of abuse of the administrative power to revoke passports. And, as stated here previously:
Due to the U.S.’ sharply harsher penalty structure on under-reporting of similar assets & items of income simply because they’re located in another country, it’s likely that a disproportionate number of victims of this bill would be U.S. citizens in other countries. Hatch is the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and the most prominent Republican supporter of Chuck Schumer (D-NY)’s Ex-PATRIOT Act, another well-known emigrant harassment proposal.
The roll call on this “trade facilitation” bill (showing the votes of each Senator) was posted after I first wrote this; it shows that all 44 Democrats, 32 Republicans, and both the independents voted for the bill, while 20 Republicans voted against and 2 Republicans did not vote. The “yea” voters include not just traditional enemies of the diaspora like Chuck Grassley, Chuck Schumer, Jack Reed, and Harry Reid, but FATCA opponent Rand Paul as well.
Similar passport revocation provisions passed the Senate once before three years ago (in a highway funding bill) but got shot down by a competing House highway funding bill which coincidentally did not include any passport confiscation provisions. On the bright side, The Hill has predicted that this “trade facilitation” bill, too, will get nowhere in the House — though again, not due to any concern for the diaspora, but rather because of the bill’s controversial anti-currency-manipulation provisions (Title VII).