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WASHINGTON-Republicans could jump on the chance to quickly shuttle the bankruptcy reform bill (H.R. 333) through Congress and to the president’s desk during the lame duck session, according to NAFCU Director of Legislative and Political Affairs Brad Thaler. On the other hand, Republicans could get greedy and wait until the 108th Congress, when they are in total control of both houses of Congress, to introduce a bill without the Democratic compromises. “I think bankruptcy, depending on how long they’re going to be in town in session in a lame duck session-if they do decide to pursue legislative business in a lame duck session-I think bankruptcy may see somewhat of a better chance to move in the lame duck session based on the fact that the Democrats have a bill to go to the Senate side that they’ve negotiated the deals on and had their input into it,” Thaler explained. Or, “If they don’t pass a bill in the lame duck session, there’s a strong probability that you can come back next year and you have Republicans controlling the whole process with the majority in the conference next year and you wouldn’t see provisions, such as the Schumer abortion clinic language provision and some other stuff in the bill.” Thaler said he thinks the former is more likely than the latter. “It’s a lot easier to score when you’re right near the goal line, than take the ball back down to the other end of the field, because you’d start back from scratch next year and anything could happen in the process,” Thaler analogized. “We remain optimistic that we will see bankruptcy reform passed in a lame duck session,” he continued. “I think because the Democrats were able to negotiate a lot of it and get a lot of what they want in the bill, they would support moving it through the Senate. The question that arises about bankruptcy is `does this embolden opponents of the Schumer provision in the House?’ realizing that if they could keep it from being enacted in a lame duck session, they have a possibility of getting that provision stripped out next year.” At this point-between the death of Senator Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) with an already razor thin margin in the Senate and Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura’s Independent party replacement Dean Barkley, reform party founder, who has yet to announce who he will caucus with-no one is quite sure who will be in control of the Senate during the lame duck session. “I think that people are still kind of sorting that out. Those questions are probably being deliberated in the Senate right now especially because the possible change in the majority there,” CUNA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs John McKechnie said. “The fact that you have one independent that has, so far, refused to disclose who he’s going to caucus with during the lame duck, there is a little more uncertainty attached to the Senate side than the House.” McKechnie added that the loss of bankruptcy abuse reform author and champion Representative George Gekas (R-Pa.) is not the end of the world for the bill, “His role in this Congress has been mainly filled as a champion by [House Judiciary Chairman Jim] Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.). Since he’s the chairman of the committee, he’s been the main proponent on the House side this time.” Looking into the long-term, Thaler said it will not matter next congressional session who controls the Senate because of their bipartisan nature. “Who controls what doesn’t always have a big impact on credit union issues because we have friends on both sides of the aisle,” he said. One issue that is likely to blur party lines that credit unions may not be too thrilled about is privacy, which has been a hallmark for both the expected Senate Banking Committee Chairman in the 108th Congress Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and Ranking Member Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.). However, it’s also possible that Shelby could become the chairman of the Intelligence Committee and, depending upon the rules, be precluded from chairing the Banking Committee in addition. [email protected]

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