WASHINGTON - The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved bankruptcy overhaul legislation 19 to 8, keeping the bill on a fast track.
The full House has not yet scheduled a vote, but sources on Capitol Hill said it could occur as early as the end of the month.
Committee Republicans spent most of the day fending off amendments offered by Democrats that would have delayed the measure. All 16 of them were rejected.
"We want to make sure that frivolous or dilatory-type amendments are not accepted," Rep. George Gekas, R-Pa., the bankruptcy bill's primary sponsor, said during a committee break. "We believe the proof is in the pudding of the overwhelming votes that have been cast in the past, so we have good prospects for passage of this."
Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to begin debate on the bill Thursday, but Democrats are expected to ask that votes be postponed until after next week's Presidents Day recess. While Senate Judiciary is chaired by a Republican, Democrats have more clout there than on the House panel, because each party has the same number of seats on the Senate panel.
In early votes, House Judiciary rejected two amendments to give parents collecting child support and alimony priority over such creditors as banks in collecting debt from filers.
"We're giving the same priority for creditors to collect on luxury goods" that debtors purchased before filing for bankruptcy "as we are to child support," said Rep. Melvin Watt, D-N.C. "That is crazy." When spouses and credit card companies "come into competition with each other, child support ought to get priority," he said.
The Republicans on the committee countered that existing child support laws already protect such family obligations.
The House Democrats also unsuccessfully offered an amendment that would make it more difficult for abortion-clinic attackers to use bankruptcy laws to avoid paying for the damage they may cause.
Most of the provisions were unsuccessfully raised in the last session of Congress, which ultimately passed a compromise bankruptcy bill by veto-proof margins. However, then-President Clinton pocket vetoed the measure lawmakers adjourned in December.