Monday, March 14, 2005

With Us or Against Us - Bankruptcy Bill Update

No, this thing has not gone away yet. To recap, the Senate voted passage of the Indentured Servitude Act of 2005 last week, 74 - 25, and it was referred to the House for action. Quite a few Democrats crossed over to support this draconian legislation, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

Certainly, the Senate version of the bill will get the "once over" during House committee review. Expect the final bill that comes out the other end of this process to be a bit different than the one the Senate passed.

The upshot of this whole imbroglio is that there's some time to make some noise. has taken up the challenge of energizing both progressives and neocons, who seem to be unusually united in opposing the bankruptcy legislation. The best course of action at this point is to bookmark Politology and follow what appears to be a very solid action plan. If you can lend a few minutes doing research, offering some services, or writing some literature, let them know.

This afternoon, Politology linked through to a blogger who had contacted Harry Reid's office. I tore into Reid at the end of last week for not leading on what is a clearly Democratic party issue. Quite a few people have been waiting for a statement from Reid on why he voted for this bill, and didn't shepherd his flock to kill this bill. A golden opportunity existed to do just that last week - and Reid let down every progressive Democrat in the country. Reid has yet to publicly post a statement on the bill, but he does have one, and it was read by a staffer over the phone:

People who have the ability to repay their debts should be required to do so. I support this bill because it puts that principle into law and prevents the abuse of bankruptcy laws.

The bill is flawed in several ways. It does not do enough to protect people who declared bankruptcy due to medical emergencies or military service. It does not do enough to protect the employees of corporations like Enron and Worldcom that declare bankruptcy. And it allows people who engage in unlawful projects to avoid accountability. Democrats offered amendments to address each of these flaws, but they were rejected by the Republican majority. I hope the Congress returns to these important issues in the future.

But even with these flaws, the bill is an improvement over current law and merits my support.

The bill is "flawed in several ways". Then Reid ticks off a laundry list of egregious and draconian flaws. Yet he still votes for the bill, and takes no leadership role (particularly at the cloture vote) when this abomination could have been stopped dead cold.

Don't back off on your senators. Keep calling. This bill could yet wind up back in their laps. They need to know that this, and all similar anti-consumer, pro-serf class creation bills, need to be opposed in the loudest voice possible. And more importantly, they need to know we'll be working against them vigorously, starting with the midterms in 2006.

Ok, enough old history. Onto the House. There are no less than 20 Democratic party representatives who signed a letter urging Dennis Hastert to move this bill through quickly. Here's the letter and the signators to the letter:

The Honorable J. Dennis Hastert
U.S. House of Representatives
H-232, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Mr. Speaker:

We write to encourage you to bring bankruptcy reform legislation to the House floor as soon as the Senate completes its consideration of the bill. The New Democrat Coalition has backed common sense bankruptcy reform in the past and helped in passing the bankruptcy reform bill by overwhelming margins in the House of Representatives during the 108th Congress.

Over the last several years, we have worked to advance reasonable and balanced legislation that would require individuals who have the ability to repay their debts to do so, while preserving the important safety net of bankruptcy under Chapter 7 for those who truly need it. We believe that responsible bankruptcy reform embodies the New Democrat principle of personal responsibility, while at the same time adding important new consumer protections such as requiring enhanced credit card disclosure information and encouraging participation in consumer credit counseling.

It is our hope that the House of Representatives will consider this important piece of legislation in an expedited manner. We stand ready to work with you and our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass bankruptcy reform into law.


Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher
Rep. Adam Smith
Rep. Ron Kind
Rep. Artur Davis
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy
Rep. John Larson
Rep. Stephanie Herseth
Rep. Dennis Moore
Rep. Mike McIntyre
Rep. Joe Crowley
Rep. Jay Israel
Rep. David Wu
Rep. Diane Hooley
Rep. Melissa Bean
Rep. Jim Davis
Rep. Harold E. Ford, Jr.
Rep. Ed Case
Rep. Jay Inslee
Rep. Shelley Berkeley
Rep. Gregory W. Meeks

If your representative's name shows on this list, you really need to call his/her office ASAP. As in the Senate, there is no logical reason, given the body of knowledge available on the topic of why people file for bankruptcy, why any House Democrat would endorse this anti-family, regressive legislation.

Lastly, here's a link to the sponsors of the House version of the Indentured Servitude Act of 2005. Interestingly enough, my local DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSMAN shows as a sponsor for this bill. I'll be working on him night and day to remove himself from sponsorship. Either that, or I'll be working tirelessly next year to have him bounced from office.

There's several strategies in play here, and I'll be writing about them in the coming days. Would I like to see this bill buried? You bet. Is that likely? If committee members are worked hard enough, it would be possible to hold this legislation in committee for a long, long time. We also need to be pushing for ameliorating amendments to the legislation. While the GOP Senate wasn't willing to listen to reason, House members are much more sensitive to local constituent's input, and may be more agreeable to "softening"

I'm asking for your help in making our views known. This isn't about protecting deadbeats (unless you count the likes of Enron and WorldCom). This is about protecting a constitutionally guaranteed right, and having the ability, when everything else has gone wrong, to start over.

That's the view of a compassionate progressive. And that's what the men and women representing us in Washington need to hear.