Democratic lawmakers worried about the impact of the bankruptcy bill on ordinary Americans lost their last chance to modify it this week, when the Republican-controlled House Judiciary Committee rejected 19 amendments offered by Democrats. The House is expected to pass the bill next month, and President Bush to sign it into law.
On Wednesday, Rep. John Conyers, D.-Mich., issued a statement blasting the Committee vote: "Today, we reached a new low in the House Judiciary Committee. At the outset of the markup, the Chairman announced that the Majority was going to oppose all amendments, no matter how reasonable, no matter how important. This put the Majority in the position of defending the indefensible just to follow the edicts of their Republican leadership."
Among the proposed amendments were efforts to protect soldiers who incur medical debts because or war injuries; prevent wealthy debtors from squirreling away money in trusts exempt from the Bankruptcy Code; and "protect small business jobs in bankruptcy."
The committee even rejected an amendment to protect Americans forced into debt because of identity theft. According to Conyers' statement, Republicans "could not offer a single response to oppose this proposal, only arguing that no more changes could be made." A press release from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Sensenbrenner, R.-Wisc., does not give any reason for rejecting all 19 amendments, and his office did not return phone calls.
A look back at the lobbying campaign that surrounded the bill, however, gives some clues why House Republicans were so adamant that it pass without any new amendments. According to the Washington Post, "The National Retail Federation said it would call to the attention of its members any senator's vote for an amendment that in its view would 'undermine the legislation.'"
The Judiciary Committee's wholesale disregard of minority voices is not new. In February, Committee Democrats sent a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. John J. Sensenbrenner (R.-Wisc.) protesting his hardline policy of bypassing Committee consideration of the Real ID Act and the Class Action Fairness Act, both passed by the House.