WASHINGTON — The Senate passed an amendment Monday that would tighten a law barring lenders from charging members of the military more than 36% interest on their loans.

The amendment to the defense authorization bill, sponsored by Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., strengthens the 2006 Military Lending Act by allowing the financial regulatory agencies to use their civil enforcement capabilities to uphold the 36% cap. Currently, violating the law is a criminal misdemeanor resulting in a fine or one year in jail or both, and criminal liability is only applicable if a lender violates the law knowingly.

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