Thursday, January 29, 2004

2 bankruptcy measures merged

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - House Republicans decided Wednesday to try to force Senate Democrats to accept their version of a bankruptcy bill by combining that legislation with a bipartisan bill offering bankruptcy help for farmers.

"While the other body is often described as the 'saucer in which the coffee cools,' (the GOP bankruptcy bill) has become nearly frozen in that proverbial senatorial saucer," House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner said. "Today, I seek to reignite congressional consideration of bankruptcy reform."

The House voted 265-99 to combine the farm bankruptcy bill with the GOP bankruptcy legislation and voted down Democratic legislation to pass the farm bankruptcy legislation as a stand-alone bill.

The GOP bankruptcy legislation would make it harder for Americans to erase their debts. The House bill failed previously because Senate Democrats would not consider the bill without a provision to ban abortion protesters from using bankruptcy to avoid paying fines for blocking clinics if they knowingly violated the law.

A House-Senate committee previously agreed to include that proviso, but House members refused to accept it. Now, House Republicans are threatening the usually routine extension of bankruptcy help for farmers if Democrats don't accept the abortion provision.

"Sometimes giving the other body a choice speeds things along, and that's what this bill purports to do," Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said Tuesday.

House and Senate Democrats say combining the bankruptcy legislation with the help for farmers won't work. "This is an effort to find someone to blame for the failure to pass the bankruptcy legislation," Rep. Melvin Watt, D-N.C., said.

"We're doing this little exercise to expedite going to conference with the Senate, and I don't think it's going to work," Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., said.

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