What: All Issues : Justice for All: Civil and Criminal : S. 256. Bankruptcy/Vote on Amendment to Clarify Means Test For Active Duty and Reservist Military Personnel and Veterans (2005 senate Roll Call 12)
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S. 256. Bankruptcy/Vote on Amendment to Clarify Means Test For Active Duty and Reservist Military Personnel and Veterans
senate Roll Call 12     Mar 01, 2005
Progressive Position:
Nay
Progressive Result:
Loss

With this vote, the Senate approved an amendment offered by Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to S. 256, a Republican-sponsored bill to alter federal bankruptcy rules. Sessions's amendment would clarify that bankruptcy courts could consider military service as a "special circumstance" when making individual bankruptcy determinations. S. 256 would institute a "means test" based on the median incomes of individual states into the bankruptcy process. 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. Sessions's amendment allowed courts to consider military service as a "special circumstance" when making individual bankruptcy determinations. Sessions offered his amendment as an alternative to an amendment offered by Richard Durbin (D-IL). Durbin's amendment would have completely exempted from the bill's means test active duty and reservist members of the military, as well as veterans who could prove that their service led to their need to declare bankruptcy. Progressives favored Durbin's amendment rather than Sessions's because they opposed the means test in the overall bill. Durbin's amendment was one of several offered by Progressives to exempt specific groups of people from having to be subjected at all to the means test. In contrast, Sessions's amendment would not actually have changed anything from what was originally in the bill; rather, it merely clarified that bankruptcy courts could consider military service as part of the means test. Durbin'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 American consumers. 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 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. Sessions's amendment, which he indicated would not clutter S. 256 because it only "clarified" a provision rather than adding or deleting anything substantive, passed by a vote of 63 to 32. This vote handed Progressives the first in a series of defeats in their attempts to tilt the balance of S. 256 more toward consumers and away from credit card companies and other creditors.

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