The House Judiciary Committee approved a consumer bankruptcy reform bill Wednesday on a 22-to-13 vote.
The legislation requires people with high disposable incomes to repay at least some unsecured debts in Chapter 13 rather than eliminate them in Chapter 7. It also adopts a streamlined process for small-business bankruptcies and extends protections to insolvent farmers.
The Rules Committee is scheduled to vote on the legislation Monday. The full House is expected to vote by the end of next week.
House Judiciary's vote capped five days of debate. The bill was supported by all Republican lawmakers present and two Democrats, Reps. Rick Boucher of Virginia and Steven R. Rothman of New Jersey. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., voted "present."
Judiciary Chairman Henry J. Hyde said he is "very optimistic" that the bill will be approved by the full House. The Illinois Republican also said he will ask the Rules Committee to limit the number of amendments that may be considered during debate on the House floor.
Banking industry officials praised the legislation, which does not contain pro-debtor provisions Democrats tried to add during the markup. "On balance, this is a positive bill," said Philip S. Corwin, a principal at Federal Legislative Associates who represents the American Bankers Association. "We anticipate swift action on the House floor."
But consumer advocates vowed to continue fighting the legislation. "It is still a bad bill," said Frank Torres, legislative counsel at Consumers Union. "It does nothing to stop the credit card industry practice of keeping consumers in the dark about the real cost of credit."