What: All Issues : Aid to Less Advantaged People, at Home & Abroad : America's Poor : S. 256. Bankruptcy/Vote on Amendment to Exempt from Means Test in Bankruptcy Bill Debtors Whose Financial Dilemmas were Caused by Failure to Receive Alimony, Child Support or Both. (2005 senate Roll Call 36)
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S. 256. Bankruptcy/Vote on Amendment to Exempt from Means Test in Bankruptcy Bill Debtors Whose Financial Dilemmas were Caused by Failure to Receive Alimony, Child Support or Both.
senate Roll Call 36     Mar 10, 2005
Progressive Position:
Yea
Progressive Result:
Loss

In this vote, the Senate defeated an amendment by Edward Kennedy (D-MA) to exempt from a new "means test" individuals whose financial dilemmas were caused by the fact that they did not receive alimony, child support or both to which they were legally entitled. The means test was a key provision of S. 256, a Republican-sponsored bill to alter federal bankruptcy rules. S. 256 would establish as a part of the bankruptcy process a test based on the median incomes of individual states. Individuals who are determined to have sufficient means-assets-would be ordered to repay all debts, while those deemed to have insufficient means would have their debts erased after certain assets are seized. Kennedy's amendment would have exempted from the bill's means test individuals whose poor financial situation was caused by the fact that they did not receive alimony, child support or both to which they were legally entitled. Arguing on behalf of Progressives, Kennedy explained that, "[s]ingle mothers are 50 percent more likely than married people to go bankrupt and three times more likely than childless people to go bankrupt." He indicated that this problem is more widespread than most people realize, and that single mothers and their children ought not to be punished because they didn't receive income they expected and were owed. Kennedy's amendment was one of a series offered by Progressives to limit the bill's scope because they viewed S. 256 as benefiting large corporations, such as credit card companies, at the expense of middle and lower-class Americans. They maintained that S. 256 would actually require individuals who deserve full protection in bankruptcy to overcome additional barriers to getting out of debt, like higher attorneys' fees and more paperwork. Republicans countered that the bill would make it harder for those who could pay their debts to escape them. In addition, Republicans were anxious to keep the bill "clean," meaning free from most amendments, because the House had already indicated it would not accept a bankruptcy bill laden with amendment language. Progressives' loss in this amendment by a vote of 41 to 58 was one of numerous losses in their attempts to tilt the balance of S. 256 more toward ordinary consumers and away from credit card companies and other creditors.

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