What: All Issues : Family Planning : Abortion : S. 256. Bankruptcy/Abortion Rights/Vote on Amendment to Prohibit the Discharge in Bankruptcy of Debts Incurred as a Result of Violent Protests (2005 senate Roll Call 28)
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S. 256. Bankruptcy/Abortion Rights/Vote on Amendment to Prohibit the Discharge in Bankruptcy of Debts Incurred as a Result of Violent Protests
senate Roll Call 28     Mar 08, 2005
Progressive Position:
Yea
Progressive Result:
Loss

In this vote, the Senate defeated an amendment offered by Charles Schumer (D-NY) that would have forbidden violent protesters-including anti-choice protesters-from being released in bankruptcy from debts they incurred as a result of a court-ordered fines or other judgments. Progressives argued that, "[i]f you use violence or the threat of violence to achieve a goal, a political goal, and you are successfully sued--as you should be--by the person or persons you have used violence against, you cannot then go back home to a bankruptcy court and say, protect me." (Schumer.) They emphasized that the provision would only apply to violent protesters, not peaceful ones. Republicans countered by accusing Schumer of planting a "poison pill" in the bill, meaning that he knew that the amendment would encounter such strong opposition that his only real purpose in offering it was to kill the overall bill. (Orrin Hatch (R-UT).) They asserted that current law already prohibits the discharge in bankruptcy of debts incurred as a result of illegal activity, so that the actual goal of the Schumer amendment would be to target peaceful protestors. In addition to attempting to deal with a specific issue that has been visited repeatedly by members of the Senate, Schumer's amendment was one of a series offered by Progressives to limit the bill's scope because, overall, 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 meet additional barriers, like higher attorneys' fees and more paperwork. Republicans countered that the bill would curb abuses of the bankruptcy system by making 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-and that applied to this amendment even more than others. Progressives' loss in this amendment by a vote of 46 to 53 was one of numerous losses in their attempts to tilt the balance of S. 256 more toward average consumers and away from credit card companies and other creditors, and left open the continuing hot-button issue of whether protesters-including anti-choice protesters fined for violent acts-ought to be eligible to discharge their debts in bankruptcy.

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