The second session of the
106th Congress begins Jan. 24, with a cloture vote set for S. 625 on Jan. 25. However, it is not likely this vote
will occur if it remains clear that Senate Democrats will vote as a block against limiting controversial amendments.
A failed cloture vote would likely be the death knell for omnibus legislation in this Congress.
The Senate resumes
consideration of the bankruptcy bill amid signs that the "time" for the bill has perhaps come and gone: new filings
for 1999 declined from the previous yearthe first time since 1995; credit card charge-offs declined throughout the
year; card issuers raked in record profits on the spread from the cost of funds; and consumers took advantage of the
economy to pay off larger portions of their outstanding monthly bills. Moreover, provisions granting manufacturers
broader reclamation rights over banks in chapter 11 cases, while reducing shopping center tenants' right to retain
leases and banning lienstripping in chapter 13, are becoming more controversial. In short, some proponents of the
legislation may be losing their appetite for legislation that is looking less attractive than a year ago.
The financial services
industry took home its "big game trophy" last year with the Financial Services Modernization bill. Bankruptcy
reform has always been a second-tier priority in comparison. Added to this is the historic difficulty in passing
meaningful legislation in an election year where both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue are up for grabs. The political
season is fully underway, with presidential or congressional primaries and caucuses to be held in 11 states during
February and three times that many states in March.
In sum, the odds for
enactment of major reform could be as long now as any time since the National Bankruptcy Review Commission
Report in October 1997. Look for some of the less controversial parts of the bill (e.g., financial contract netting,
transnational, chapter 12) to be broken off for consideration if it becomes clear that the larger bill is dead.