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451

trying to get at here. It is interesting that when some of us were trying to protect States' rights in many, many, many other contexts, it didn't mean a hill of beans to the people on this Committee. Yet when it's convenient to hide behind States' rights, all of a sudden we're out here talking about States' rights again, and you know, I thought we had this debate on the homestead. We resolved this debate on the homestead. So why would we have a different standard for non-homestead assets than we have for homestead assets?

I for the life of me can't understand that. So I would just encourage my colleagues to at least try to be consistent about this stuff, and encourage them to support this amendment. And I yield back.

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The question is on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Massachusetts, Mr. Delahunt. Those in favor will say aye.

Opposed, no.

The noes appear to have it. The noes have it. The amendment's not agreed to.

Are there further amendments?

Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chairman?

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. A recorded vote is ordered. Those in favor of the Delahunt amendment will, as your name are called, answer aye. Those opposed, no, and the clerk will call the roll.

The CLERK. Mr. Hyde?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Mr. Coble?

Mr. COBLE. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Coble, no. Mr. Smith?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Mr. Gallegly?

Mr. GALLEGLY. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Gallegly, no. Mr. Goodlatte?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Mr. Chabot?

Mr. CHABOT. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Chabot, no. Mr. Lungren?

Mr. LUNGREN. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Lungren, no. Mr. Jenkins?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Mr. Cannon?

Mr. CANNON. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Cannon, no. Mr. Bachus?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Mr. Inglis?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Mr. Hostettler?

Mr. HOSTETTLER. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Hostettler, no. Mr. Green?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Mr. Keller?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Mr. Issa?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Mr. Flake?

Mr. FLAKE. No.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


452

The CLERK. Mr. Flake, no. Mr. Pence?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Mr. Forbes?

Mr. FORBES. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Forbes, no. Mr. King?

Mr. KING. No.

The CLERK. Mr. King, no. Mr. Feeney?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Mr. Franks?

Mr. FRANKS. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Franks, no. Mr. Gohmert?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Mr. Conyers?

Mr. CONYERS. Aye.

The CLERK. Mr. Conyers, aye. Mr. Berman?

Mr. BERMAN. Aye.

The CLERK. Mr. Berman, aye. Mr. Boucher?

Mr. BOUCHER. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Boucher, no. Mr. Nadler?

Mr. NADLER. Aye.

The CLERK. Mr. Nadler, aye. Mr. Scott?

Mr. SCOTT. Aye.

The CLERK. Mr. Scott, aye. Mr. Watt?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Ms. Lofgren?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Ms. Jackson Lee?

Ms. JACKSON LEE. Aye.

The CLERK. Ms. Jackson Lee, aye. Ms. Waters?

Ms. WATERS. Aye.

The CLERK. Ms. Waters, aye. Mr. Meehan?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Mr. Delahunt?

Mr. DELAHUNT. Aye.

The CLERK. Mr. Delahunt, aye. Mr. Wexler?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Mr. Weiner?

Mr. WEINER. Yes.

The CLERK. Mr. Weiner, aye. Mr. Schiff?

Mr. SCHIFF. Aye.

The CLERK. Mr. Schiff, aye. Ms. Sanchez?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Mr. Smith?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Mr. Van Hollen?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Mr. Chairman?

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Chairman, no.

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Members in the chamber who wish to cast or change their votes? Gentleman from Florida, Mr. Keller?

Mr. KELLER. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Keller, no.

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Gentleman from Tennessee, Mr. Jenkins?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


453

Mr. JENKINS. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Jenkins, no.

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Gentleman from Florida, Mr. Feeney?

Mr. FEENEY. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Feeney, no.

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Gentleman from North Carolina, Mr. Watt?

Mr. WATT. I reported. I shouted out from the back and I wasn't clear whether she got it.

The CLERK. Mr. Chairman, I did not have Mr. Watt.

Mr. WATT. Aye.

The CLERK. Mr. Watt, aye.

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Further Members in the chamber who wish to cast or change their votes? If not, the clerk will report.

The CLERK. Mr. Chairman, there are 10 ayes and 15 noes.

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. And the amendment is not agreed to. Are there further amendments?

Mr. BERMAN. Mr. Chairman?

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The gentleman from California, Mr. Berman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Mr. BERMAN. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment, Berman-Meehan amendment at the desk.

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The clerk will report the amendment.

The CLERK. Amendment to S. 256 offered by Mr. Berman and Mr. Meehan. Page 194, after line 2, insert the following (and make such technical and conforming changes as may be appropriate): section 322——

Mr. BERMAN. Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent——

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The clerk will continue to read until some of the Members get the amendment.

The CLERK. Exemption for medically distressed debtors. Section 522 of title XI, United States Code as amended by sections 224, 308 and 322, is amended by adding at the end the following: R(1), for a debtor who is a medically distressed debtor, if the debtor elects to exempt property——

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Without objection, the amendment is considered as read and the gentleman from California will be recognized for 5 minutes.

[The amendment follows:]

 

 

 

 





457

Mr. BERMAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Basically this is about creating a uniform Federal floor for homestead exemptions of $150,000 or less, $150,000 basically for medically distressed debtors. The statistics clearly point out that there have been large increases in medical debt and bankruptcy cases, caused by medical debts, coupled with significant increases in real estate prices, and that has led to a new and rapidly-growing problem ignored by this bill.

This amendment would create a uniform Federal floor for homestead exemptions of $150,000, applicable only to debtors who have had very substantial medical debts or a very substantial loss of income due to medical problems, losses of over 50 percent of household income. This amendment would simply permit those homeowners who have suffered serious medical problems under the standards of this bill, with losses again over 50 percent of household income to file for bankruptcy without having to give us homes where they have $150,000 or less of equity.

The notion of forcing people out of their homes after illnesses or accidents is made more outrageous by the fact that this bill does nothing to deal with the handful of States where debtors of all kinds, famous sports figures, physicians who drop their medical malpractice insurance, real estate tycoons, can save millions of dollars in homestead. Americans, particularly those who face serious medical problems, are entitled to a more evenhanded justice. Families who face insurmountable debt problems following serious medical problems are confronted with the fact that they can obtain relief from their debts and bankruptcy only if they give up their homes. In nearly half of all States homestead exemptions are under $25,000. There are no escapes for families with high debts and home equity that exceeds that for instance very low homestead exemption. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case a family with equity greater than the State exemption limits, which in some States are under $10,000, must give up its home. In Chapter 13 the family must pay the creditors the amount equal to the greater equity which it can usually not afford. A family should not have to lose its home to obtain relief from debts caused by serious medical problems.

The amount of equity a homeowner can protect in bankruptcy has not kept up with the rise in home prices. While the value of even modest homes climbs in some areas, the protection of the law does not, leaving even people of modest means with a choice between a home or discharging medical debts. This falls particularly hard on elderly and disabled homeowners who often live solely on Social Security benefits. With incomes of 800 or $1,000 per month they could live in their current homes which may be paid off or have low monthly costs, but if they are forced out of these homes, they cannot afford to rent a decent place to live, and in fact, these homeowners would have no bankruptcy relief available to them.

The purpose of this amendment is to rectify it.

Mr. CONYERS. Would the gentleman yield?

Mr. BERMAN. I'd be happy to yield.

Mr. CONYERS. I want to commend the gentleman for this amendment because it specifically covers the problem of people with severe health care, and the recent study in bankruptcy revealed that one half of the people forced into bankruptcy is because of medical

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


458

bills or immediate hospital costs, and I wanted the gentleman to know that the gentlelady from California, Zoe Lofgren, is entirely supportive of this amendment and will submit her own statement in support of it. She's unduly delayed and in—

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Without objection, the statement of Ms. Lofgren will appear in the record at this time.


[The prepared statement of Ms. Lofgren follows:]

Prepared Statement of the Honorable Zoe Lofgren, a Representative in Congress from the State of California

Many of us have loved ones who have battled a grave illness or serious injury. If you've ever had the misfortune of being in that situation, you know that it is an incredibly stressful experience, both on the mind and the pocketbook. But incredibly, this bill chooses to treat those families the same as spendthrifts.

A recent study conducted by professors at Harvard Medical and Law Schools demonstrated that about half of all personal bankruptcies today can be traced to severe medical illnesses or injuries. Among those, average unreimbursed medical costs totaled nearly $12,000. Nevertheless, the study found that these families did everything they could to pay their medical bills and avoid bankruptcy. One in five skipped meals. One-third had their electricity cut off. Almost half lost their phone service.

Incredibly, these families also cut back on needed medications. In fact, half went without needed prescriptions, and a full 60% went without a needed doctor appointment.

I cannot understand why the proponents of this bill want to treat these families the same as irresponsible spendthrifts. They are hard-working, middle class Americans who have had the misfortune of facing illness without adequate medical insurance. Yet this bill treats them the same as those who went on a spending spree. I think we should distinguish between a parent who has to pay for their child's cancer treatments and a 22-year-old who bought too many plasma screen televisions.

I had planned to offer an amendment today that would have exempted from the harsh means test those families facing bankruptcy due to a serious medical hardship. Unfortunately, I was not able to do so because of a conflicting commitment. However, I have no doubt that the Majority would have rejected that amendment just as they rejected Rep. Berman and Rep. Meehan's medical homestead amendment and every other reasonable amendment offered to this bill.

I am extremely disappointed that the Committee chose to abrogate its responsibilities and ignore families struggling to make ends meet in the face of a medical crisis. Unfortunately, once again, the power and influence of large corporations took precedence over average Americans in the Republican-controlled Congress.


Mr. CONYERS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. BERMAN. Mr. Chairman, I yield back.

 

 

 

 

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Gentleman from Utah. Gentleman from Utah.

Mr. CANNON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Let me just begin by saying we are, everyone on this Committee is extraordinarily aware of the particular burden that medical problems cause and the resulting bankruptcies. But if I could clarify a couple of things, Mr. Berman, by asking a couple of questions.

As I read this, this overrides State law and creates a new Federal exemption for people that have medical emergencies that cause bankruptcy; is that right?

Mr. BERMAN. And I amends the Federal Bankruptcy Bill that will become Federal bankruptcy law, to provide a $150,000 equity exemptions so that people—for those people who have over 50 percent of their income lost because of medical bills or because of an injury that costs——

Mr. CANNON. Right. But that would preempt State laws in those cases that have a different homestead?

 

 


459

Mr. BERMAN. For purposes of bankruptcy, not for purposes of other issues, just for purposes of bankruptcy, which is a Federal issue.

Mr. CANNON. Certainly bankruptcy is, but bankruptcy has always recognized homestead as a State issue, and the effect of this, if I understand it—I'm just looking it over now—but the effect would be that a couple filing jointly for bankruptcy would have a $300,000 exemption as I read your language.

Mr. BERMAN. $150,000.

Mr. CANNON. But if you had a joint filing would that not double to 300,000?

Mr. BERMAN. No, no.

Mr. CANNON. Can you help me with where the language is that makes it the single, because you talk about the debtor's aggregate interest.

Mr. BERMAN. You have to get back to the base bill. Why don't we do it the other way around? Why don't you show me why it would?

Mr. CANNON. Okay. We'll——

Mr. BERMAN. You got a base bill——

Mr. CANNON. I actually don't think I have the burden. It seems to me—and I'll let just the Members of the Committee make the judgment—that, as I read it very quickly here——

Mr. BERMAN. It deals with household and the home equity. It's not, in other words it's about——

Mr. CANNON. Reclaiming my time, we disagree and we'll just have to have people exercise their judgment on that.

It also—you know, people sometimes get ill and then get healthy and they overcome their problems.

Mr. BERMAN. Yeah, that's a real problem.

Mr. CANNON. I don't see how we—well, it is a wonderful thing that happens I guess occasionally and maybe even often. We agree, I might say, that home prices have gone up, but the States have the responsibility under the homestead relationship with the Bankruptcy Act to deal with that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And just I'd like to submit for the record, Mr. Chairman, a letter to the Honorable Charles E. Grassley, from the U.S. Department of Justice, signed by Mr. Will Moschella, that relates to the study that Mr. Conyers referred to, and if I could just read one paragraph of that——

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Without objection. The letter will be included in the record.

[The material referred to follows:]


 

 





463


Mr. CANNON. "In general, the data describing medical-related expenses contained in official documents filed by chapter 7 debtors reveal that slightly more than 5 percent of their general unsecured debt is medical-related. The conclusion that almost 50 percent of consumer bankruptcies are "medical related" requires a broad definition and generally is not substantiated by the official documents filed by debtors."

So I——

Mr. BERMAN. Will the gentleman yield?

Mr. CANNON. Yes.

Mr. BERMAN. Two points. One, although the gentleman is wrong on the larger issue, he, it turns out, is correct. If they are filing jointly, then each gets the $150,000 exemption, so I wanted to clarify that.

And who wrote that report? That's a very familiar name.

Mr. CANNON. Yes. I think everybody here would know Will Moschella——

Mr. BERMAN. Used to work on the majority side, right?

Mr. CANNON. He certainly, because we have a Republican President who has—who names people to political positions, but I think everyone here would also recognize that Mr. Moschella is a very thoughtful and reasonable person and he's gone down on record, so if you disagree with the conclusion you might want to check with him.

Mr. Smith, did you want——

Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. If the gentleman will yield just for a minute.

Mr. Chairman, I just wanted to add a couple of other points. One is that this amendment was offered in the Senate last week and was defeated on a bipartisan vote of 58-39, so that's a good example of an amendment that received bipartisan opposition. Second of all, it does override States' rights. And third of all, as the Chairman has pointed out repeatedly today, this fractures the very closely crafted compromise that existed to try to get this bill through today.

Mr. BERMAN. Does the gentleman promise——

Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. And for those reasons I'd oppose the amendment as well.

Mr. CANNON. Reclaiming my time I urge my colleagues to vote no on the——

Mr. DELAHUNT. Mr. Chairman?

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The time of the gentleman has expired. Gentleman from Massachusetts.

Mr. DELAHUNT. I move to strike the last word.

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The gentleman is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. DELAHUNT. I just can't allow that comment about this overrules States' rights. I think it was my friend from Texas that made that comment, when over the course of the past months, years, this Committee has preempted State law in terms of torts, securities litigation, they want to do it in terms of medical malpractice. They want to do it in terms of whatever—class actions. I mean with all due respect to my friend from Texas, give me a break. I mean that argument, that dog just simply doesn't hunt, as the Chairman of the Crime Subcommittee would understand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


464

Mr. WATT. Would the gentleman yield?

Mr. DELAHUNT. And I'll yield to my friend from North Carolina.

Mr. WATT. Isn't it true that this bill already sets a national standard for bankruptcy—for homesteads? It doesn't do that?

Mr. BERMAN. No. It allows——

Mr. WATT. It caps it, doesn't it?

Mr. BERMAN. No, it allow—well, it does in certain situations, but basically——

Mr. WATT. It caps it I mean.

Mr. BERMAN. In limited situations, but it allows States with enormous homestead exemptions that allow wealthy people to avoid paying off their debts and still keep huge mansions in those States like I think Texas, to continue to do so.

It's just another one of the deficiencies in a bill which I actually am happy is being pushed through in the fashion that it is, because it—in a perverse way it reminds me of why I'm a Democrat.

Mr. DELAHUNT. The time is still mine, and——

Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Delahunt?

Mr. DELAHUNT. I could always count on the gentlelady from Texas, my friend, Sheila Jackson Lee. I yield to her what time I have left.

Ms. JACKSON LEE. You certainly can, Mr. Delahunt. Thank you and you were amazed at the comment regarding States' rights. I'm amazed at the comments that seem to suggest a particularly orchestrated process that we can't do anything to improve the legislation because there's some sort of external commitment to riding the backs of the Senate. And I've always had the understanding that these are two distinct bodies with two distinct lines of reasoning. And if this is all that we're doing in the Judiciary Committee, then shame on us again.

I think the gentleman's amendment is a very thoughtful amendment, and the reason is it is well documented that the middle class are most burdened in the instances of bankruptcies by catastrophic illnesses. It is clear.

Now, we can either concede today and ignore this amendment, and say that what we want to do is to put every family out in the streets, and continue then the pathway of destruction, or we can be reasoned and establish ourselves as an independent thinking body and support Mr. Berman's amendment. I think Mr. Meehan—I'm not sure—is that on that amendment.

Mr. MEEHAN. Yes.

Ms. JACKSON LEE. And make a very good point about what this bill should be standing for. It's helping people rebuild their lives, not helping people destroy their lives.

With that, I yield to the distinguished gentleman his time if he desires to have it. Mr. Delahunt, I yield back to you if you desire to have it.

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The question is on the amendment.

Mr. MEEHAN. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Who is moving?

Mr. MEEHAN. It's me.

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Oh, the other gentleman from Massachusetts is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. MEEHAN. I am also a cosponsor of this amendment, and I was out at another hearing when the amendment was brought up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


465

I want to correct something that Mr. Smith said, and this is not the same amendment that was debated in the Senate. In the Senate it was a quarter, the standard was a quarter of the income on medical bills. This is one-half a person's income towards medical bills.

We're saying that medical costs are not spending sprees, not personal irresponsibility, but the single largest causes of bankruptcy. About half of the filers cite medical costs as a major factor of their bankruptcy. The average unreimbursed medical costs were $12,000. 45 million people in America go without health insurance every day. They are one accident or one illness away from financial ruin. But as this study found done by Harvard University, most people whose health care costs drove them to bankruptcy were uninsured but still had thousands of dollars in medical bills.

I believe that the Congress's failure to expand health care coverage in America and bring down health care costs are one of the reasons why medical bankruptcies have increased 2,200 percent since 1980. This amendment inserts a teeny bit of compassion and common sense to this bill. For debtors who are medically distressed, it provides a modest homestead exemption. Under this bill wealthy people can move to States with unlimited homestead exemptions, declare bankruptcy and shield their assets, even if they have mansions. But a family who has someone who falls ill can't afford the hospital bills, would lose their modest home, and that's entirely unfair. This amendment is narrowly tailored to apply only to—with majority medical expense.

To be defined here as medically distressed, you either have to be out of work for more than a month due to an illness in your family, or have medical bills that are more than 50 percent of your household income, which is different than the Senate bill. The amendment gives a reasonable household exemption of $150,000 for medically distressed debtors.

Nearly half of all States, the homestead exemption is less than 25,000, and several States don't have any homestead exemption. So this bill sets the floor at 150,000 in home equity, and despite what proponents of this bill would like to suggest, most people who file for bankruptcy because of medical expenses are not irresponsible. They're families who have had complications with the birth of a child. They're working men and women caring for a sick spouse or an elderly parent, or they're seniors who are living on a fixed Social Security check.

So I support this amendment, would urge my colleagues to support the amendment. And I yield back the balance of my time, Mr. Chairman.

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The question is on the amendment offered by the gentleman from California, Mr. Berman. Those in favor will say aye.

Opposed, no.

The noes appear to have it. rollcall is ordered. All those in favor of the Berman amendment will as your names are called answer aye, those opposed no, and the clerk will call the roll.

The CLERK. Mr. Hyde?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Mr. Coble?

Mr. COBLE. No.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


466

The CLERK. Mr. Coble, no. Mr. Smith?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Mr. Gallegly?

Mr. GALLEGLY. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Gallegly, no. Mr. Goodlatte?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Mr. Chabot?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Mr. Lungren?

Mr. LUNGREN. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Lungren, no. Mr. Jenkins?

Mr. JENKINS. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Jenkins, no. Mr. Cannon?

Mr. CANNON. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Cannon, no. Mr. Bachus?

Mr. BACHUS. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Bachus, no. Mr. Inglis?

Mr. INGLIS. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Inglis, no. Mr. Hostettler?

Mr. HOSTETTLER. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Hostettler, no. Mr. Green?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Mr. Keller?

Mr. KELLER. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Keller, no. Mr. Issa?

Mr. ISSA. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Issa, no. Mr. Flake?

Mr. FLAKE. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Flake, no. Mr. Pence?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Mr. Forbes?

Mr. FORBES. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Forbes, no. Mr. King?

Mr. KING. No.

The CLERK. Mr. King, no. Mr. Feeney?

Mr. FEENEY. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Feeney, no. Mr. Franks?

Mr. FRANKS. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Franks, no. Mr. Gohmert?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Mr. Conyers?

Mr. CONYERS. Aye.

The CLERK. Mr. Conyers, aye. Mr. Berman?

Mr. BERMAN. Aye.

The CLERK. Mr. Berman, aye. Mr. Boucher?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Mr. Nadler?

Mr. NADLER. Aye.

The CLERK. Mr. Nadler, aye.

[Pause.]

The CLERK. Oh. Mr. Boucher, no. Mr. Nadler?

Mr. NADLER. Aye.

The CLERK. Mr. Nadler, aye. Mr. Scott?

Mr. SCOTT. Aye.

The CLERK. Mr. Scott, aye. Mr. Watt?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


467

Mr. WATT. Aye.

The CLERK. Mr. Watt, aye. Ms. Lofgren?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Ms. Jackson Lee?

Ms. JACKSON LEE. Aye.

The CLERK. Ms. Jackson Lee, aye. Ms. Waters?

Ms. WATERS. Aye.

The CLERK. Ms. Waters, aye. Mr. Meehan?

Mr. MEEHAN. Aye.

The CLERK. Mr. Meehan, aye. Mr. Delahunt?

Mr. DELAHUNT. Aye.

The CLERK. Mr. Delahunt, aye. Mr. Wexler?

Mr. WEXLER. Aye.

The CLERK. Mr. Wexler, aye. Mr. Weiner?

Mr. WEINER. Aye.

The CLERK. Mr. Weiner, aye. Mr. Schiff?

Mr. SCHIFF. Aye.

The CLERK. Mr. Schiff, aye. Ms. Sanchez?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Mr. Smith?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Mr. Van Hollen?

Mr. VAN HOLLEN. Aye.

The CLERK. Mr. Van Hollen, aye. Mr. Chairman?

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Chairman, no.

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Members in the chamber who wish to cast or change their vote? Gentleman from Wisconsin, Mr. Green?

Mr. GREEN. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Green, no.

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Further Members in the chamber who wish to cast or change their vote? If not, the clerk will report.

The CLERK. Mr. Chairman, there are 13 ayes and 18 noes.

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. And the amendment is not agreed to. Are there further amendments? The gentleman from New York, Mr. Nadler.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Mr. NADLER. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk. We'll try again on the redrafted amendment No. 1 that hopefully will satisfy Mr. —

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The clerk will report.

Mr. NADLER—Cannon.

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Second attempt.

The CLERK. Amendment to S. 256 offered by Mr. Nadler. Page 210, after line 13, insert the following (and make such technical and conforming——

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Without objection, the amendment is considered as read and the gentleman from New York will be recognized for 5 minutes.

[The amendment follows:]

 

 

 

 




470

Mr. NADLER. Thank you. Mr. Chairman, I'll be brief. I started describing this amendment earlier before the point of order.

This amendment would make debts arising from civil rights violations nondischargeable. It includes in the amendment the civil rights violations listed in the Federal Criminal Code, any civil judgment arising under civil rights violation including a 1983 violation action that is an action for violation of civil rights under color of law, or an intentional violation of a valid court order enforcing civil rights law described in the amendment.

It also includes offenses under State law that consists of conduct that would be a civil rights crime described in the Federal Criminal Code.

Finally, it repairs an omission in the current code that makes fines and restitution ordered under the Federal Criminal Code nondischargeable, but not under State law. My amendment would clarify that that includes fines and restitution ordered under State law.

So if you violate the right to vote, the right to work, the rights of a person wearing the uniform of the United States military, the right to the free exercise of religion, freedom of—access to clinic entrances or any other federally protected rights, you will not be able to abuse the Bankruptcy Code either to escape your debts or to force your victims to chase you across the country through bankruptcy courts trying to collect lawful judgments.

We know that that is now a common strategy, and even where it fails, the uncertainty in the law gives tort fees as the opportunity to inflict more damage and more expense on the victims through abuse of the Bankruptcy Code.

Mr. Chairman, this bill, the underlying bill greatly expands the kinds of debts that are deemed nondischargeable. It makes nondischargeable even small cash advances on credit cards prior to the filing of a case. It may not be enough money to keep your kids in Huggies, but it's enough to be nondischargeable. We're protecting the helpless credit card companies. If you use your credit card to pay your taxes online, something the IRS has been urging us to do for years, that would become a nondischargeable debt. We seem to have found ways to make all sorts of debts nondischargeable in this bill.

I would hope that with this amendment we could go on record and make the law crystal clear that if all these other things can become nondischargeable, then debts incurred as a result of the deliberate violations of Federal or State law to violate people's civil rights should also be nondischargeable so that you cannot violate people's civil rights and use the bankruptcy courts to evade your responsibilities under the law.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. CHABOT. Mr. Chairman?

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Gentleman from Ohio, Mr. Chabot.

Mr. CHABOT. I move to strike the last word.

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The gentleman's recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. CHABOT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I won't use the 5 minutes. My colleague indicated that he wouldn't be real extensive in his arguments, so I won't be either. I'll keep mine brief.

I would rise in opposition to this amendment. This really, this amendment is just a revised version of the Schumer amendment,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


471

which has been responsible for scuttling the bankruptcy—passage of the entire bankruptcy bill for some time now. And it was defeated, this amendment was defeated in the Senate last week by a vote of 46 yeas and 53 noes.

The Bankruptcy Code already prevents the discharge of most types of debts resulting from violent or destructive activities. Current law already clearly applies to willful and malicious acts of violence committed by, for example, pro-life activists at an abortion clinic, that would result in injury either to a person or to property. In fact, there is no reported case specifying otherwise. CRS, for example, has stated that the specific intent requirement necessary to establish a violation of face would arise from behavior comparable to an intentional tort, and thus would be nondischargeable under 11 USC 532(a)(6). That provides that a debt for willful and malicious injury by a debtor to another entity or to the property of another entity is nondischargeable.

So in other words, willful or wanton acts, malicious acts, would already be nondischargeable under the Bankruptcy Code, so this amendment is unnecessary and really adds nothing. And as I indicated originally, this was the very amendment which scuttled the passage of this very important legislation before, so I would urge my colleagues to vote no.

Mr. BERMAN. Mr. Chairman?

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Gentleman yield back?

Mr. BERMAN. Mr. Chairman?

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Gentleman from Ohio yield back? Gentleman from Ohio, do you yield back?

Mr. CHABOT. I yield back, yes.

Mr. BERMAN. Mr. Chairman?

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Gentleman from California.

Mr. BERMAN. Move to strike the last word.

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The gentleman's recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. BERMAN. Yield to the gentleman from New York.

Mr. NADLER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Chairman, the remarks that we just heard from the distinguished Chairman of the Constitution Subcommittee really don't bear on this amendment. It is true the current code makes nondischargeable malicious and violent torts, but we're not talking necessarily about malicious and violent torts. We're talking about deliberate violations of civil rights of all kinds. And, yes, this would include within it some of what the Schumer amendment in the Senate—which I would remind the distinguished Chairman originated in this Committee a number of years ago as the Nadler amendment before they took it up in the Senate—would cover.

But this considerably broader and it is saying that if you deliberately the civil rights of someone else and there is a—and violates the law, the Federal or State law, and there's a judgment against you, you cannot abuse the bankruptcy courts to get rid of that judgment.

Now, the argument that this scuttles the bill, that's not an argument to the policy. The bill ought to say if credit cards debt incurred to pay your taxes on line is nondischargeable, then certainly you shouldn't be able to get rid of a court judgment against you for

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


472

a deliberate offense against someone else's civil rights by use of the Bankruptcy Code.

The principle is sound, and we are to improve the bill, which is a bad enough bill, but make it a little better, by adopting this amendment.

I yield back. I thank the gentleman and I yield back to him.

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The gentleman from California yield back? The time belongs to the gentleman from California.

The question is on the Berman—excuse me—the Nadler amendment. Now, this is the Nadler amendment, it's not the Schumer amendment. Those in favor will say aye.

Opposed, no?

The noes appear to have it. The noes—okay, a rollcall will be ordered. Those in favor of the Nadler amendment will as your names are called answer aye, those opposed no, and the clerk will call the roll.

The CLERK. Mr. Hyde?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Mr. Coble?

Mr. COBLE. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Coble, no. Mr. Smith?

Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Smith, no. Mr. Gallegly?

Mr. GALLEGLY. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Gallegly, no. Mr. Goodlatte?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Mr. Chabot?

Mr. CHABOT. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Chabot, no. Mr. Lungren?

Mr. LUNGREN. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Lungren, no. Mr. Jenkins?

Mr. JENKINS. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Jenkins, no. Mr. Cannon?

Mr. CANNON. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Cannon, no. Mr. Bachus?

Mr. BACHUS. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Bachus, no. Mr. Inglis?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Mr. Hostettler?

Mr. HOSTETTLER. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Hostettler, no. Mr. Green?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Mr. Keller?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Mr. Issa?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Mr. Flake?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Mr. Pence?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Mr. Forbes?

Mr. FORBES. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Forbes, no. Mr. King?

Mr. KING. No.

The CLERK. Mr. King, no. Mr. Feeney?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


473

Mr. FEENEY. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Feeney, no. Mr. Franks?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Mr. Gohmert?

Mr. GOHMERT. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Gohmert, no. Mr. Conyers?

Mr. CONYERS. Aye.

The CLERK. Mr. Conyers, aye. Mr. Berman?

Mr. BERMAN. Aye.

The CLERK. Mr. Berman, aye. Mr. Boucher?

Mr. BOUCHER. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Boucher, no. Mr. Nadler?

Mr. NADLER. Aye.

The CLERK. Mr. Nadler, aye. Mr. Scott?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Mr. Watt?

Mr. WATT. Aye.

The CLERK. Mr. Watt, aye. Ms. Lofgren?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Ms. Jackson Lee?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Ms. Waters?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Mr. Meehan?

Mr. MEEHAN. Aye.

The CLERK. Mr. Meehan, aye. Mr. Delahunt?

Mr. DELAHUNT. Aye.

The CLERK. Mr. Delahunt, aye. Mr. Wexler?

Mr. WEXLER. Aye.

The CLERK. Mr. Wexler, aye. Mr. Weiner?

Mr. WEINER. Aye.

The CLERK. Mr. Weiner, aye. Mr. Schiff?

Mr. SCHIFF. Aye.

The CLERK. Mr. Schiff, aye. Ms. Sanchez?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Mr. Smith?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Mr. Van Hollen?

[No response.]

The CLERK. Mr. Chairman?

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Chairman, no.

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Members who wish to cast or change their vote? The gentleman from Wisconsin, Mr. Green.

Mr. GREEN. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Green, no.

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Gentleman from Arizona, Mr. Franks?

Mr. FRANKS. No.

The CLERK. Mr. Franks, no.

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Gentlewoman from California, Ms. Waters?

Ms. WATERS. Aye.

The CLERK. Ms. Waters, aye.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


474

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Further Members who wish to cast or change their votes? If not, the clerk will report. Gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Scott?

Mr. SCOTT. Aye.

The CLERK. Mr. Scott, aye.

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Further Members who wish to cast or change their vote? The clerk will try again to report.

The CLERK. Mr. Chairman, there are 11 ayes and 17 noes.

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. And the amendment is not agreed to. Are there further amendments?

Mr. SCOTT. Mr. Chairman?

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Scott?

 

 


Mr. SCOTT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I have an amendment at the desk, No. 004

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The clerk will report the amendment.

The CLERK. Amendment to S. 256 offered by Mr. Scott of Virginia. Page 13, after line 23, insert the following (and make such technical and conforming changes as may be appropriate): E, subparagraphs (a) through (c) shall not apply——

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Without objection the amendment is considered as read, the gentleman from Virginia will be recognized for 5 minutes.

[The amendment follows:]



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