<p>WASHINGTON – Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) brought some sparks to CUNA’s 2002 GAC and gave bankruptcy reform supporters reasons to hope their legislation may reach President Bush’s desk more sooner than later. Daschle got the ball rolling when he strongly endorsed bankruptcy reform from the GAC podium. “I believe strong, healthy credit unions are an essential part of a strong competitive economy,” Daschle said. “That’s why I support bankruptcy reform. I want to see a good bill out of the [conference] committee. It has been delayed long enough.” Resounding applause greeted his comments and effectively drowned out the rest of his endorsement. Sensenbrenner considered the Majority Leader as good as his word and, when he came to the podium after Daschle, challenged him to follow through with the other Democratic Senators who have been generally seen as the chief obstacles to the bill’s progress. Both houses of Congress have passed versions of bankruptcy reform and the measure is deadlocked in conference committee where members are supposed to resolve the differences in the two versions of the law. Sensenbrenner told the attendees that on February 26 he sent the Senate a compromise offer to break the deadlock. He called on Daschle to “tell his fellow Democratic senators to support this compromise and get the majority of Democratic conferees to sign that conference report, to schedule the bill promptly and break off any filibuster that the windbags who don’t want any bankruptcy reform might lodge against this bill.” Sensenbrenner urged the attendees to take the message supporting the compromise with them to Capitol Hill, apparently unaware that almost all the attendees had lobbied their representatives the day before, and suggested that, if they did so, the bill could be voted upon and sent to the president in two to four weeks. The Sensenbrenner compromise tackles the thorny issues of homestead exemption and abortion related fines and deletes amendments which are not tied to bankruptcy reform and amendments which some have seen as making the bill too lenient on former Enron executives. “We have seen case after case where people have used bankruptcy as a financial planning tool rather than a tool that allows someone who is down and out to get up off the floor and to have a new start,” Sensenbrenner said. “The time has come to amend the law make sure that the people who avail themselves of bankruptcy protection are legitimately bankrupt rather than simply seeking to shift their bad financial decisions onto their fellow human beings,” he said. Daschle also strongly endorsed “parity” between banks and credit unions in the federal insurance provided. “I agree with my colleague Tim Johnson (D-S.D.),” Daschle said. “Consumers shouldn’t have to give up their credit union accounts to get the coverage they need.”</p>

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