Bankruptcy Bill Stalemate Again

Bankruptcy Bill Stalemate Again

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The 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 ( for documents related to the dispute, and watch the ABI Network Update for the latest developments via e-mail.

Journal Date: 
Tuesday, October 1, 2002