WASHINGTON - New legislation that would affect how billions of dollars of debt claims are settled was on the brink of passage Thursday night as the Senate readied for a final vote.

The number of bankruptcy filings fell 5% last year to 1.2 million, but many experts and lobbyists on both sides of the debate have predicted that the slumping economy could send the number back up later this year. Credit extended, including unused credit lines and debt incurred to consumers, rose to nearly $3 trillion through Sept. 30 of last year.

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