The Senate came closer to winding up its work on the bankruptcy overhaul bill Tuesday afternoon by defeating two Democratic amendments.
The Senate is scheduled today to vote on a cloture motion, which would more or less end debate. A final vote on the bill that would make it harder for consumers to walk away from their debts could come Thursday or Friday.
Democrats and Republicans were still trying to reach consensus on about 50 outstanding Democratic amendments before todays looming cloture vote. After cloture is invoked, only amendments ruled germaine a strict standard can be introduced.
An amendment by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to limit the amount of credit lenders can extend to people under 21 was defeated 55-to-42. The amendment would have required parental consent to obtain a credit limit of more than $2,500.
There is no limit as to how much credit card debt a youngster can accumulate, Sen. Feinstein said from the floor.
Meanwhile, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., attempted to eliminate the bills $1 million cap on the amount of individual retirement account money that could be protected from creditors in bankruptcy court. Sen. Kennedy said it would not be right to allow creditors to suck up 25 years of retirement savings just because someone fell on hard times, but the amendment was defeated 61-to-37.
Numerous amendments that had previously been debated remained in limbo as Senate leaders worked toward an agreement that would dispose of all remaining issues.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., had asked for a vote on a predatory lending amendment last week. The amendment would deter securities firms from purchasing high-cost loans from bankrupt originators and would hold the purchasers liable if the loans violated fair-lending laws.
Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., introduced an amendment Monday that would prevent lenders who charge more than 100% interest from collecting on unpaid loans.
Leadership aides said votes on those amendments and others were still possible, but not definite.
The House passed its version of bankruptcy reform on March 1. Leaders of both houses hoped to bypass the conference report stage, as the bills were essentially unchanged from the conference report that was pocket vetoed by then-President Clinton last year.
But considering the changes bill managers have agreed to thus far, a conference seems unavoidable, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., told Congress Daily Tuesday.