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Chairman SENSENBRENNER. And the gentlewoman from California is recognized for 5 minutes.

Ms. WATERS. Thank you very much. Mr. Chairman and Members, the homestead exemption for seniors is pretty self-explanatory. My amendment would set a mandatory $30,000 Federal minimum homestead exemption for debtors who are 62 or older and would allow such debtors in bankruptcy to protect some or all of the value of their homes from credentials.

It seems to me that we're forever talking about prmake any difference.otecting seniors. If we cannot protect seniors and keep them in their homes, then we have done nothing. So without going any further, that's what that amendment is all about. I would ask for an aye vote en bloc on that amendment also.

The second amendment is a stay of eviction for victims of domestic abuse. My amendment would modify the Bankruptcy Code to secure better protection for domestic abuse victims by granting them relief from summary eviction from their housing. This relief would only be available if a domestic violence debtor certifies under penalty of perjury that the debtor is, in fact, a victim of domestic abuse and that their physical well-being or the physical well-being of the debtor's child would be threatened if this debtor were evicted. This amendment would provide a safe harbor for those victims who face the threat of more violence and extreme danger if their homes were taken.

I would ask for an aye vote for these two amendments en bloc.

Mr. CONYERS. Would the gentlelady yield to me?

Ms. WATERS. Yes, I yield.

Mr. CONYERS. I want to make a point here, that these three amendments are original and are not duplicative of any of the amendments that have occurred before: homestead exemption for seniors, abuse, domestic violence, victims of abuse, which is a large area, not understood by all, and that they are valid, each of them in their own right, and I urge the careful consideration of the Committee in support of these amendments. And thank the gentlelady.

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Does the gentlelady yield back her time?

Ms. WATERS. The gentlelady yields back the time.

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Does the gentleman from Alabama insist on his point of order against the third amendment being considered en bloc?

Mr. BACHUS. Yes, I do, Mr. Chairman.

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The gentleman will make his point of order, quickly.

Mr. BACHUS. Mr. Chairman, the amendment—the credit card amendment violates house rule XVI(7) and is not germane. The fundamental purpose of the amendment is not germane to the fundamental purpose of the bill. The amendment, in fact, amends the Truth in Lending statute, and jurisdiction for that statute is outside the jurisdiction of this Committee. And as such, the amendment is not germane.

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Does the gentlewoman from California wish to speak on the point of order?

Ms. WATERS. Well, Mr. Chairman, I do wish to speak on the point of order, and I really don't know why I'm going through this charade because it really doesn't make any difference. We're not al-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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lowed any amendments here today anyway. They're going to be voted down. So I guess it doesn't make any difference whether it's done on a point of order or whether you call the roll for the vote. But——

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Okay. The——

Ms. WATERS. But I think—I have not finished, Mr. Chairman. I think it is important to note that I think the gentleman from Alabama is opposing it because he knows that when this Committee hears about these under-age students who are being solicited by these credit card companies, running up this debt, and basically setting up all kind of obstacles to their being able to be successful when they graduate from college, then he knows he's embarrassed by that. So he may have a point of order that you probably will rule in his favor. So be it. It doesn't matter how it dies. It's going to die one way or the other.

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The Chair—the Chair is prepared to rule. One of the tests of germaneness of an amendment is whether the amendment, if introduced as free-standing legislation, would be referred by the parliamentarians and the Speaker to the Committee that is considering the bill for amendment. The amendment—the third amendment that is proposed by the gentlewoman from California, Ms. Waters, is an amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, I believe, which is not in the jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committee, but is in the jurisdiction of the Financial Services Committee. Therefore, the amendment is not germane, and the Chair sustains the point of order by the gentleman from Alabama relative to the third amendment being considered en bloc. The question is on agreeing to the other two amendments——

Mr. BACHUS. Mr. Chairman, it's the Truth in Lending Act.

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The Chair stands corrected on that. The question is on agreeing to the other two amendments offered en bloc by the gentlewoman from California, Ms. Waters. Those in favor will say aye? Opposed, no? The noes appear to have it. The noes have it, and the amendment is not agreed to.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Are there further amendments? The gentleman from North Carolina, Mr. Watt.

Mr. WATT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I call up amendments—Watt amendments 04, 06, and 06 and request their consideration en bloc.

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Without objection, the amendments will be considered en bloc, and the clerk will report the amendments.

The CLERK. Mr. Chairman, I have 03 and 04.

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The gentleman from North Carolina?

Mr. WATT. I'm looking at 04, 05, and 06.

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Would the gentleman from North Carolina briefly describe the subject matter? That might help the clerk.

Does the clerk have them now? No.

Mr. WATT. 04 is the one that says "04" in the corner. 05 is the one that says——

The CLERK. Mr. Chairman, I have 03, 04, and 06.

Mr. WATT—"05" in the corner. 06 is the one that says "06" in the corner.

 

 

 

 

 


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Chairman SENSENBRENNER. I believe the clerk's got what the gentleman from North Carolina wishes to offer, and the clerk will report the amendments considered en bloc.

The CLERK. Amendments to S. 256

Mr. WATT. I ask unanimous consent the amendments be considered as read.

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Without objection.

[The en bloc amendments follow:]

 

 





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Chairman SENSENBRENNER. And the gentleman is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. WATT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Amendment 04, which is supported by the American Bar Association and a whole host of other people, accomplishes two things. It eliminates provisions in the bill that would require the debtor's attorney to certify the accuracy of the debtor's schedules under penalty of harsh court sanctions, and it modifies provisions that would require attorneys to certify a debtor's ability to make future payments under a reaffirmation agreement.

Section 102 unnecessarily imposes a harsher standard on debtor attorneys to certify pleadings filed on behalf of the debtor. No similar heightened standard is imposed on credential attorneys, nor for attorneys outside the bankruptcy context. By holding the debtor's attorney personally liable for the accuracy of their clients' schedules, these provisions would force the attorney to hire private investigators and appraisers to verify information, adding thousands of dollars to the cost of representing a debtor in bankruptcy. Without this amendment, I believe that the bankruptcy representation—that bankruptcy representation would become unaffordable for most debtors.

Also, the impact on the pro bono bar providing bankruptcy services would dwindle with the likely result that thousands of pro se debtors would clog up the court system or debtors will not seek the relief they need at all.

Amendment 05 corrects the provisions that would require bankruptcy attorneys to identify and advertise themselves as debt relief agencies and comply with intrusive new regulations that would interfere with the confidential attorney-client relationship. Sections 227 and two twenty—through 229 of the bill would seriously interfere with the attorney-client relationship by prohibiting debtor's bankruptcy attorneys and many non-bankruptcy attorneys from giving their clients certain proper bankruptcy planning advice. These provisions would also have a chilling effect on debtor's lawyers and their firms by requiring all of their newsletters, seminars, advertising materials to include awkward and misleading statements identifying themselves as debt relief agencies.

Amendment 06 would make a—is a technical amendment that seeks to close an unintended, I suppose, loophole in the current bill that would allow sensitive personal consumer information to be sold on the eve of a corporate bankruptcy. The sale of consumer lists is not a new method to increase the capital available to failing companies, and as we have seen with the recent debacle with ChoicePoint, such lists are highly sensitive and the distribution of personal information included can be disastrous to consumers. Lists of consumer information can be worth millions of dollars, a tempting asset to liquidate when a company is on the way into bankruptcy.

It is for these reasons that the privacy policy enforcement in the Bankruptcy Act of 2000 sought to exclude personally identifiable information from the assets of the debtor——

Mr. CANNON. Would the gentleman yield——

Mr. WATT. The bill prohibited—let me just finish and I'll be through, and then you'll have 5 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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The bill prohibits the sale or disclosure—the amendment—I'm sorry. The bill prohibited the sale or disclosure of personally identifiable information if doing so violates a privacy policy of the debtor in effect at the time at which such information was collected. The Consumer Privacy Act also protected consumer information in the same manner. However, this bill doesn't do that, and I'm happy to yield to the gentleman——

Mr. CANNON. Thank you. I might suggest, you know, I have concerns about some of these issues. I don't want to see the bill amended at this point in time. If the gentleman——

Mr. WATT. That is quite obvious at the end of the day.

Mr. CANNON. If the gentleman would consider withdrawing the amendments, I can assure him that I'd be willing to work with him in the Subcommittee without making any commitments for the full Committee on the issue to take a look at some of these things.

Mr. WATT. Well, I would hope that the gentleman will just do as he has all throughout the day and just vote these things down and still if it's a problem take them up in the Subcommittee. I hope the gentleman is not saying he's going to punish me for offering an amendment by not——

Mr. CANNON. Absolutely no.

Mr. WATT—taking up something that he thinks is important.

Mr. CANNON. Let me just suggest these are—there are issues here that we need to consider. We'll look at those in the order——

Mr. WATT. Well, I'm not going to ask for a recorded vote. You all are going to vote them down and—you know.

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The gentleman's time has expired. The question is on the amendments en bloc offered by the gentleman from North Carolina, Mr. Watt. Those in favor will say aye? Opposed, no? The noes appear to have it. The——

Mr. WATT. See, I told you.

[Laughter.]

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The noes do have it, and the amendments en bloc are not agreed to.

Are there further amendments? If there are no further amendments, the question——

Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chairman? I don't have an amendment. I'd like to put something in the record. I ask to strike the last word for submission——

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The gentlewoman is recognized for 5 minutes.

Ms. JACKSON LEE. I wanted to add into the record, Mr. Chairman, the complete testimony of Professor Elizabeth Warren, Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, February 10, 19—excuse me, February 10, 2005. And I wanted to——

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Where—well, if the gentlewoman will yield, where was this testimony presented?

Ms. JACKSON LEE. In the United States Senate.

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Because the rules prohibit us including in the record proceedings in the other body, I would ask the gentlewoman to withdraw her unanimous consent request. The Senate has published that hearing, and it is a part of the record of the Senate consideration of this legislation.

Ms. JACKSON LEE. I will at this time withdraw that request, Mr. Chairman, and I've made mention of it. I want to make sure that

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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I did have included, however, a bankrupt reform article. I believe I did, but I want to double check, and that's by David S. Broder, and that's Sunday, March 13, 2005.

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The gentlewoman has already asked unanimous consent to include that in the record and has received it from the Committee.

Ms. JACKSON LEE. Thank you.

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Are there further——

Ms. WATERS. Mr. Chairman?

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The gentlewoman from California, Ms. Waters.

Ms. WATERS. I, too, would seek unanimous consent to submit for the record my statements on the bills that I introduced. I did not give the complete statements in the interest of time, and I——

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Without objection, the statements of the gentlewoman from California will be included in the record.

[The prepared statements of Ms. Waters follow:]

 

 

 

 


Prepared Statement of the Honorable Maxine Waters, a Representative in Congress from the State of California

Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.

Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent that the reading be dispensed with so that I may explain my amendment.

Mr. Chairman, the very modest amendment I am now offering will help protect seniors who have to file for bankruptcy from losing their homes. My amendment sets a mandatory $30,000 federal minimum "homestead exemption" for debtors who are 62 or older, and would allow such debtors in bankruptcy to protect some or all of the value of their homes from creditors. It also would substantially decrease the likelihood that many of these seniors must sell their homes.

Mr. Chairman, many of our seniors have been driven into bankruptcy because of huge medical expenses that they could not pay, job losses, and other events beyond their control.

When these seniors face the misfortune of bankruptcy because of medical expenses, they should not also have to lose virtually all of the equity in their home, equity that many of them have saved and struggled throughout their lifetime to build.

Nor should they be forced to sell their home if they file for a bankruptcy, a result that frequently is the case in states with low homestead exemptions. In many cases, a home may be an older person's only significant asset, representing an entire life savings.

My amendment sets a $30,000 nationwide floor on the homestead exemption for seniors, debtors who are 62 years old or older. States, like California, that have a more generous homestead exemption would not be affected by my amendment, but my amendment would protect more of the equity of older debtors who live in states like Ohio, with low homestead exemptions.

Mr. Chairman, some states have very low homestead exemptions. Ohio has an exemption of $5,000, and North Carolina has an exemption of $10,000. Currently, only two states have a higher exemption for the elderly. California's regular exemption is $50,000, but it is $150,000 for seniors. Maine's exemption is $35,000, but $70,000 for the elderly. Wisconsin's homestead exemption is $40,000 across the board. Florida and Texas have an unlimited dollar value homestead exemption while many states, like Ohio, have exemptions as low as $5,000.

Mr. Chairman, I believe that Federal law should provide additional protection to seniors in states where the homestead exemption is very low. A senior debtor should be entitled to a decent degree of basic protection for his home equity, wherever that senior happens to live.

Many of our seniors have scrimped and saved for a lifetime to buy their homes. We should do all that we can to help protect them from having to sell their home because illness or job loss required them to file for bankruptcy.

Mr. Chairman, the pain and burden for our seniors of dealing with huge, unexpected medical expenses or job loss is enormous. Let's not add insult to injury by making them suffer the loss of their homes as well. Please join me in preserving the dignity of our seniors by supporting my homestead exemption for seniors' amendment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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I yield back the balance of my time.


Prepared Statement of the Honorable Maxine Waters, a Representative in Congress from the State of California

Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.

Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent that the reading be dispensed with so that I may explain my amendment.

Mr. Chairman, this is an unbalanced, unfair anti-consumer bill that is tilted way too far in favor of the credit card companies. My amendment makes a modest attempt at restoring some balance by holding credit card companies responsible for their reckless extensions of credit to young people without regard to their capacity to handle such credit card debt.

My amendment would that an application for a credit card by someone under 21 have the signature of the young person's parent or guardian, that is, that there be a co-signer, or the submission of financial information by the under 21 year old consumer that demonstrates that this young applicant has the financial capacity to repay the credit sought. Under my amendment, no credit card could be issued to anyone under twenty one whose application did not meet this requirement.

Mr. Chairman, I am very concerned that because of the reckless practices of the credit card companies, many young people with little financial education or sophistication end up with huge debts that they simply cannot handle. The credit card companies, with their relentless marketing campaigns and endless television ads, seduce our young people with promises of the good life, without taking any responsibility for those who cannot responsibly handle the credit that they extend.

In recent years, there has been a huge effort by the credit card companies to market their cards to college students, and many students just starting out are being saddled with huge credit card debts that they cannot repay, debts that drive some of them into bankruptcy.

All of us know about the t-shirt giveaways, the low "teaser" rates that are used to entice young people, and the large number of marketing representatives who appear on college campuses at sporting events and other venues to push credit cards.

Mr. Chairman, for all too many of our young people, these cards are not so-called "convenience" cards that are paid in full every month. They often result in the creation of long term debt that these students lack the means to repay. My amendment would provide a means to significantly decrease the chance that a young borrower would get into financial trouble.

Let's do something meaningful to protect our young people from being victimized by the credit card companies. I urge all of my colleagues to support this common sense amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Prepared Statement of the Honorable Maxine Waters, a Representative in Congress from the State of California

Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.

Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent that the reading be dispensed with so that I may explain my amendment.

Mr. Chairman, my amendment would provide a safe harbor for the many victims of domestic abuse whose physical well-being or their children's well-being would be greatly threatened by summary eviction procedures authorized under this bill.

Mr. Chairman, women and children who are victims of domestic violence join the ranks of the homeless every day. For women are so desperate to flee domestic abuse that they too often find themselves without funds with which to support themselves and their children. Victims often have a difficult time finding room at domestic violence shelters. Furthermore, domestic violence victims have a difficult time finding affordable long term housing because of the severe shortage of long-term affordable housing.

Mr. Chairman, domestic violence victims also find it extremely difficult to find and keep jobs. Their batterers often harass them at their places of work, which frequently results in the loss of their jobs. This directly affects their economic stability and often results in the inability to pay for life's basic necessities—such as housing.

Mr. Chairman, my amendment would provide protection for the overwhelming number of women and children who are trying to escape and survive domestic abuse and would greatly aid in allowing these victims to start a new life for themselves and their children. It would keep more of them in a safe and secure home.

Mr. Chairman, my amendment would modify the bankruptcy code to secure better protection for domestic abuse victims by granting them relief from summary eviction

 

 

 

 


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from their housing. Please note, this relief would only be available if a domestic violence debtor certifies, under penalty of perjury, that the debtor is, in fact, a victim of domestic abuse and that their physical well-being or the physical well-being of the debtor's child would be threatened if this debtor were evicted. This amendment would provide a safe harbor for those victims who face the threat of more violence and extreme danger if their homes were taken.

Mr. Chairman, we must recognize that these victims face the threat of losing their lives due to abuse and violence. They should not be forced from their homes dues to financial difficulties that are often out of their hands. Domestic abuse victims need the chance to start a new life free from violence, in a safe and secure home. Please support my amendment to carve out an exemption for domestic violence victims from summary eviction procedures authorized by this bill.

I yield back the balance of my time.

 

 

Mr. WATT. Mr. Chairman?

Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The gentleman from North Carolina.

Mr. WATT. I ask unanimous consent to submit for the record a letter from the American Bar Association dated March 11, 2005, to Chairman Sensenbrenner and to John Conyers related to one of the three amendments.

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

[The material referred to follows:]

 

 


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