Legislative Highlights Jul/Aug 2001
Senate Passes Bankruptcy Bill Again; Names Conferees
In a replay of its action in March, the Senate on July 16 voted 82-16 for final passage of bankruptcy legislation (S. 420), clearing the way for a conference with the House to reconcile differences with H.R. 333. Senators named as conferees are as follows: Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Joseph Biden (D-Del.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) among the Democrats, and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as the Republican members. The House had not named conferees as of July 16.
Before final passage, the Senate narrowly adopted an amendment to require the General Accounting Office to track the impact of the bill on bankruptcy filings, with a report on the findings two years after enactment. Also to be studied are the number of chapter 13 plan confirmations and their success rates, the cost of filing under chapters 7 and 13, the effects on the availability and cost of credit, and the ability of low income debtors to obtain relief. The EOUST would be directed to collect data and report on reaffirmation agreements under the new law.
The Senate bill contains a $125,000 cap on the homestead exemption, overriding state laws that are more generous, while the House bill has only a two-year residency requirement before a state's homestead exemption can be used. Two Republican Senators from unlimited exemption states (Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and Sam Brownback of Kansas) voted against the bill on these grounds.
Congress is in summer recess from Aug. 4-Sept. 4. It is possible that the conferees could begin their work before the recess. Upon returning in the fall, Congress could turn to the conference report on the bankruptcy bill, though government spending bills will be a higher priority.