Official House-Senate Conference on Hold Awaits Resolution of Minimum Wage and Tax Package
At press time, conferees have not been named on the bankruptcy conference, as the Senate leadership determines how to deal with the business tax provisions in S. 625. These tax breaks were added on the Senate floor as part of the minimum wage package (a $1 increase over three years). Because tax legislation must originate in the House, S. 625 could be subject to a procedural point of order.
Senate leaders do not want to drop the minimum wage package entirely from the bankruptcy bill, at least at this point. Raising the minimum wage is a hot election year issue and the Senate's action (even though it has been criticized by the President as insufficient) takes the issue off the political table. The House may pass its own minimum wage hike/tax package soon, thus allowing the entire issue to be dealt with outside the context of bankruptcy reform. This would then clear the way for the naming of conferees on bankruptcy.
While the conference committee cannot officially begin until these issues are resolved, work at the staff level continues in preparation for the conference. Likely Senate conferees are Senators Hatch, Grassley, Sessions and either Thurmond or Abraham among the Republicans, and Leahy, Torricelli and Feingold among the Democrats. Sen. Phil Gramm, chairman of the Banking Committee and an opponent of some of the consumer credit disclosure provisions, is also seeking to be a conferee. This would mean that a Democrat from the Banking Committee would also be added. From the House, it's likely that the top three members from both parties on the Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee would be selected, in addition to Judiciary Committee Chair Henry Hyde (R-IL). Republicans, as the majority party in both houses of Congress, will have at least one more conferee than the Democrats. Hyde may also chair the conference.