Lawmakers sparred Tuesday over legislation that would require some higher-income filers to repay some of their debts.

At a House Judiciary commercial and administrative law subcommittee hearing, chairman George W. Gekas, R-Pa., said "there is absolutely nothing in the main bill before us that would prevent the individual debtor" from getting a "fresh start."

But Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., cautioned fellow lawmakers "not to be too quick to dismiss the predicaments" of bankruptcy filers. Among those seeking protection from creditors, he said, are "middle-class families caught with a mortgage in the middle of a corporate downsizing" and breadwinners who fall sick but lack health insurance.

Rep. James Moran, D-Va., said reform is needed because the current bankruptcy system is "corrupt" and "broken." Rep. Rick Boucher, another Virginia Democrat, claimed many filers today are using bankruptcy as "another financial planning tool" rather than a "last resort."

Legislation sponsored by Rep. Gekas, which has about 180 co-sponsors, would institute a needs-based bankruptcy system, which would require filers earnings more than 75% of the median income to repay at least some of their debts.

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