WASHINGTON — In a major victory for retailers who heavily lobbied for bankruptcy law reforms, the Senate on Thursday approved legislation that would make it more difficult for people to wipe out all their debts under Chapter 7 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. After reconciling slight differences with a House-passed bankruptcy bill, the legislation will be sent to President Bush, who has said he’ll sign it.
The bill passed the Senate in an 83-15 vote that was days in coming. Lawmakers had to first wade through numerous amendments offered by opponents who labeled the bill anti-consumer. The legislation sets a means test requiring qualified bankruptcy filers to repay at least a part of their debts.
This is the first sweeping reform of bankruptcy laws in 20 years. Supporters said the legislation was needed in order to curb the number of bankruptcy filings, which peaked two years ago, but have begun posting declines. A similar bill passed Congress last year, but President Clinton vetoed it.