Senators' Illnesses Could Have Effect On CU Bills

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In an unusual confluence of illnesses, two senators are currently being treatment for different forms of cancer: Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter for Hodgkin's Disease, and Idaho's Michael Crapo for prostate cancer.

While both senators are expected to overcome their cancers with treatment, the absences could affect ongoing debate on two legislative priorities for credit unions.

Specter, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is being counted on as a sure vote for the bankruptcy reform bill when it reaches the floor of the Senate this week. In fact, Specter's absence during last week's drafting session for the bill was used by Sen. Orin Hatch, acting chairman, as a prod for the committee to pass the bill, which it did over the continued objections of some Democrats. "Let's get this done for Arlen," Hatch said repeatedly to his colleagues.

But Specter's treatment, which is expected to last as long as 35 weeks, is also expected to require his absence from a final Senate vote on the bill, and that could have ramifications, especially if the 55-vote Republican majority needs 60 votes to end a filibuster by Democratic opponents of the bill. That would mean the Republicans would need six Democrats, instead of five, to join them in a vote to end a filibuster.

Crapo is also expected to overcome his cancer with regular chemotherapy treatment, but it could slow the drafting of a regulatory relief bill, which Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby assigned Crapo to do. So far, there has been no regulatory relief bill introduced by Crapo, even though he and his staff have been working on it for more than a year. In the meantime, the House passed its own version of regulatory relief, which has a broad credit union chapter in it. That bill died when the 108th Congress ended. But House leaders are reported to be waiting for the Senate this time before proceeding with their bill.

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