WASHINGTON - Negotiations between the White House and Senate Republicans over bankruptcy reform legislation stalled this week, further dimming the prospects that an agreement will be reached before Congress adjourns early next month.
The White House formally rejected a Republican proposal Monday, saying it did not go far enough in several areas important to the White House. Specifically, the administration said it wants the bill to contain broader consumer protections from abusive check collection practices and to explicitly prevent abortion clinic attackers from filing for bankruptcy to escape court penalties.
Though details were sketchy, the two sides said they came closer to agreement on a third stumbling block: the preservation of state laws that let wealthy debtors escape creditors by buying expensive homes that cannot be seized.
While "we recognize the Republicans took a step forward on the homestead [issue], the offer also steps backward on important consumer protection issues that effect the overall importance of the bill," Gene Sperling, President Clinton's chief economic adviser, said in a statement.
However Rep. George W. Gekas, the House sponsor of the bankruptcy reform bill, is holding out hope. "Bankruptcy reform is not dead. It is in need of some transfusion, perhaps, but it is not dead," the Pennsylvania Republican said in a speech Wednesday at the National Association of Federal Credit Unions' congressional caucus.
Separately, the White House was more upbeat this week about the prospects for a compromise on legislation to expand tax credits for retirement savings accounts. The President previously had expressed concern about the bill because he wanted more breaks for lower-income people.
"We are very hopeful we can reach agreement with Congress on a pension package this year that is consistent with our commitment to fiscal discipline," a White House spokesman said Tuesday. His comments came a few days after the Senate Finance Committee expanded the pension reform bill by adding a tax credit for low- and moderate-income investors.