Clinton Faults Bankruptcy Laws


Monday, September 25th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


WASHINGTON (AP) — President Clinton remains unsatisfied with legislation to rewrite the bankruptcy laws, believing that recent revisions are unfair to ordinary debtors, a Clinton adviser told lawmakers.

The bipartisan measure's proponents, backed by millions in campaign money from banks and credit card companies, have only a few weeks left to push it through Congress this year. Months ago, the House and Senate passed differing versions of the legislation intended to make it harder for people to sweep away debts in bankruptcy courts.

Clinton, who supports the principle of bankruptcy overhaul, threatened twice in June to veto the legislation as written. Changes made since then by lawmakers meeting privately still don't overcome ``the president's continued concern with the imbalance ... between the interests of creditors and debtors,'' Gene Sperling, Clinton's national economic adviser, said in a letter sent to congressional leaders Friday.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, a major sponsor of the legislation, called Sperling's letter ``outdated.'' He said lawmakers decided to drop two provisions opposed by the White House.

When Clinton sees the proposal, ``with all the concessions we've made and the level of support we have'' among Democratic lawmakers, ``I think he'll see that it's fair and balanced,'' Grassley said in a statement.

As a sweetener, Senate Republican leaders are floating the idea of attaching legislation to the bill that would renew money for the 1994 Violence Against Women Act. That law has channeled federal money to women's shelters and into domestic violence programs.

The twinned legislative proposals would themselves be appended to one of the 11 appropriations bills that Congress must enact to keep the government in operation, under a last-ditch GOP plan circulated Monday.

``It's not a sweetener, it's extortion,'' Joan Entmacher, vice president of the liberal National Women's Law Center, said in a telephone interview.

Women's groups fiercely support renewal of the act, but many of the same groups oppose the bankruptcy legislation because they contend it disproportionately harms women and children. They maintain that as written, the legislation's bars against using bankruptcy to erase certain credit card debts would force single mothers and children to compete with big banks in collecting child support payments owed by bankrupt fathers.

In his letter, Sperling said Clinton is ``deeply troubled'' that the latest bankruptcy proposal does not include a Senate-passed provision that would prohibit people found to have violated laws protecting abortion clinics from using bankruptcy proceedings to escape fines and civil judgments.

``The president will not sign any legislation that does not contain an effective measure to ensure accountability and responsibility of perpetrators of clinic violence,'' Sperling wrote.

Sperling's letter said that in addition to specific provisions, Clinton also objected to the overall legislation as written.

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Bill numbers for the original House and Senate versions are H.R.833 and S.945.

On the Net: Bills available: http://thomas.loc.gov

Grassley site: http://grassley.senate.gov