Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Bankruptcy Bill
The Senate Judiciary Committee today approved a bipartisan bill to overhaul bankruptcy laws after Democrats agreed to hold a large number of contentious amendments—including abortion-related language opposed by House GOP leaders—for the Senate floor, CongressDaily reported. The bill passed on a 12–5 vote after Sen. Orrin Hatch (R–Utah) struck deals with Democrats on several less controversial amendments to expedite the markup. Democratic Sens. Joseph Biden of Delaware, Dianne Feinstein of California and Herb Kohl of Wisconsin voted with Republicans in favor of the bill, but Biden and Feinstein said they also would support many Democratic floor amendments. Hatch, who chaired the meeting in the absence of Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R–Pa.), had warned that Majority Leader Bill Frist (R–Tenn.) might bypass the committee and move the bill directly to the floor if the panel failed to complete its work on the bill today. Frist has said he hopes to move the bill to the floor after next week’s Presidents’ Day recess. Only minor amendments were agreed to during the session. Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin (D–Ill.) offered an amendment aimed at protecting employees and retirees who lose their earnings and retirement savings when a corporation files for bankruptcy, but it failed 9–7.
House Passes Class-action Legislation
With a 279–149 vote, the House this afternoon cleared class-action legislation for President Bush, following quickly on the heels of the Senate’s 72–26 approval last Thursday, CongressDaily reported. The legislation would move multi-state class-action lawsuits—which have in excess of $5 million in claims—from state courts to federal courts, where more stringent rules would apply.
Law Professors Express Concern over Bankruptcy Reform Bill
Ninety bankruptcy law professors sent a letter yesterday to the Senate Judiciary Committee expressing their belief that the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (S. 256) is deeply flawed. Read the letter online at ABI World.
Judiciary Chairman Specter Has Cancer
Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R–Pa.) announced Wednesday that he has Hodgkin’s disease but expects to continue to work in the Senate while being treated, the Associated Press reported. Hodgkin’s disease is a type of cancer involving the lymph nodes. Specter’s doctor said he has an “excellent chance of being completely cured.” Specter has been absent all week and missed today’s Judiciary Committee meeting, at which senators approved the bankruptcy reform measure. He plans to continue to perform all of his duties, including chairing the Judiciary Committee.
Amtrak Must Change or Fold
If Amtrak isn’t dramatically overhauled, the Bush administration is prepared to shut it down, saving only the commuter-rail segments, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said yesterday, Knight Ridder reported. In its 2006 budget, the administration has proposed cutting Amtrak’s annual subsidy ($1.2 billion this year), which Mineta said currently keeps the cross-country passenger-rail system alive. The Bush proposal would force Congress and Amtrak to institute sweeping change that would limit Amtrak to owning and operating trains, and have states or local governments own the rails, stations and physical property. Mineta said under the Bush proposal, states along a given line would pay for rail upkeep or else the stations along that line would be closed down and trains would no longer stop at them. Amtrak supporters voiced confidence that Congress will keep providing the money the system needs even if the Bush administration won’t. Federal subsidies have increased from $520 million in 2001 to $1.2 billion in each of the last two years.