Will Republicans go for broke?

A congressional staffer tells War Room that at least one Republican is having last-minute doubts about the hard-line bankruptcy bill.

Published April 13, 2005 9:50PM (EDT)

A range of progressive groups aghast at the potentially disastrous effects of the bankruptcy bill moving through Congress held a last-minute press conference on Capitol Hill today to denounce it.

They may be getting a bit of unexpected help: Republican infighting between Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and David Dreier of California, who heads up the Rules Committee. Under an agreement with Senate Republicans to ease passage of the bill, Rep. Sensenbrenner blocked all 19 amendments offered by Committee Democrats in March. He views any amendment as a poison pill regardless of how it would help people affected by the legislation, and is strongly urging Rep. Dreier to prevent the Rules Committee from considering 31 other amendments proposed by Democrats. But Dreier is wavering, according to a Democratic staffer close to one of the committees, who spoke to War Room today. (The staffer asked not to be named.) Apparently, Dreier is concerned about appearances, following substantial public outcry over the hard-line bankruptcy bill from progressive groups and Democrats.

Rules Committee Democrats recently issued a stinging 147-page report accusing Republican committee members of abusing their majority power by circumventing Democratic votes and suppressing dissent. Judiciary Committee Democrats have criticized Rep. Sensenbrenner for similar tactics.

Progressives have also launched an online campaign to put pressure on Rules Committee Republicans, who will decide whether or not to allow changes today before sending the bill to a full House vote tomorrow (the Committee took up the bill Tuesday without coming to a decision, another possible sign of conflict).

Even if Dreier agrees to some compromise, it's likely the Republican House will kill any amendments on sight -- making it more of a token gesture of bipartisan cooperation. Whatever happens, the bill is likely to pass -- and average Americans will have to live with the results.

By Julia Scott

San Francisco-based freelance journalist Julia Scott writes about water and energy issues for various publications. She also covers the environment for Bay Area News Group, a chain of newspapers in Northern California.

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