Bankruptcy Bill Stalemate, Again
he bankruptcy bill remains stuck in the legislative ditch of abortion politics at
press time for this issue of the Journal. The conference report negotiated in late
July makes non-dischargeable debts arising from cases under the Federal Access to
Clinic Entrances Act or any intentional act of violence, intimidation or threat
related to the obstruction of lawful goods or services. Several pro-life members of
the House view this language (by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.) as subjecting
peaceful protestors to unique punishment. An analysis by the House Republican Study
Committee also supports this conclusion.
Subsequently, organized labor announced its opposition to the dischargeability
language as well, with the AFL-CIO citing specifically the harmful effect of the
Schumer amendment on peaceful protests such as labor picketing.
The House leadership, faced with the quandary of choosing between loyal
constituencies in the financial services and pro-life communities, has decided not to
force a vote on the conference report and thus risk an embarrassing defeat. Majority
Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) decried the effect of the "killer amendment," while
trying to broker a deal among those with concerns. An effort to re-pass a "clean"
bill without the Schumer amendment has been discounted as being dead on arrival in
the Senate. Some 30 members of the New Democrat Coalition urged the House
Speaker to move the bill, as is, by relying on Democrat votes to pass both the
procedural rule for debate and final passage. More than 90 Democrats have voted
for bankruptcy reform in one form or another in the last Congress.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), while professing support for the
bill, will not attempt to move the conference report in the Senate until the House
acts on the conference report, including the Schumer amendment. Senate Judiciary
Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has signaled an unwillingness to revisit
the bill in a new Congress next year, should he retain leadership of the committee.
Time is running out on the current session of Congress. However, since it appears
that the 107th Congress is headed toward a rare "lame duck" session after the Nov.
5 election, there is another window to move the conference report this year. Also
left hanging are many other non-controversial provisions in the 400-page bill,
such as the authorization for more than 25 new bankruptcy judgeships.
Check ABI World (www.abiworld.org) for documents related to the dispute, and
watch the ABI Network Update for the latest developments via e-mail.