Reform Bill Goes Down to Wire
At press time (Sept. 21), the fate of bankruptcy legislation remains in doubt, with only two weeks left
before the adjournment of the 106th Congress. On Sept. 14, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott
(R-Miss.) introduced a new bill (S. 3046) that is nearly identical to the bill the Senate passed by an 83-14
vote in February. Meanwhile, informal talks continue between Congressional leaders and the Clinton
administration on a compromise bill that the president could sign.
Lott's new bill omits the minimum wage and business tax provisions that helped to hang up the bill
most of this year. The new bill provides a procedural vehicle in which to substitute any new, agreed-upon
language. Sen. Lott is considering a strategy to attach a new version of the bill onto one of the must-pass
government spending bills; this could avoid a presidential veto.
As a new freestanding bill, S. 3046 would be subject to a renewed Senate floor amendment process
and even a filibuster by Democratic opponents, such as Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) and Edward
Kennedy (D-Mass.). Sen. Lott would then have to win a cloture motion (60 votes needed) to restrict
debate and block non-germane amendments. It is doubtful that this complex process can be navigated
in such a compressed time frame. Sen. Wellstone and others have vowed to block any effort to attach
the new bill to an appropriations bill.
Several smaller components in the bankruptcy bill also await a resolution on the omnibus bill. These items include an extension of chapter 12 (which expired on July 1), authorization of new bankruptcy judgeships and the Financial Contract Netting Improvement Act.