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WASHINGTON-While a bankruptcy reform bill is still expected to be introduced at “anytime,” according to a staffer in Senator Charles Grassley’s (R-Iowa) office, it was not introduced as of press time last week. Beth Levine, Senator Grassley’s press secretary, confirmed for Credit Union Times last Wednesday morning that the bill had not been introduced. She said when it is dropped, which could be “anytime” now, she expects seven to eight co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle to sign onto it. NAFCU Senior Legislative Representative Murray Chanow attended a breakfast sponsored by the American League of Lobbyists last Wednesday where Grassley was the featured speaker. He told Chanow that the leadership had asked him to wait “until they can determine the plans of the new Judiciary chairman, which his Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa.).” Chanow added the bill really could be introduced anytime a firm answer comes from Specter’s office but last week was unlikely. The Senate was expected to recess following the vote on Secretary of State nominee Condoleezza Rice and some other nominations, he noted. The good news from Senator Grassley, Chanow said, was that there has been more talk among the Republican caucus about the bankruptcy reform bill than in previous years. Credit unions have been pushing hard to pass a reform bill that includes a meaningful Chapter 7 means test, mandatory financial education, and voluntary reaffirmations for credit union members for nearly a decade now. However, Senator Charles Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) staff has said he is dedicated to raising the issue of bankruptcy protection to escape fines imposed for violence against abortion clinics, Chanow said, an amendment that has tripped up the bill in the past. With a more Republican House and Senate following the 2004 elections, it could be slightly easier to keep the issue out of the debate. The bill for the 109th Congress will mirror the bill passed by the House last Congress, which did not include the abortion clinic violence amendment, Levine said. CUNA Senior Vice President for Governmental Affairs John McKechnie said that he was not aware as to whether the Democrats were consulted before Grassley made the decision to introduce the long-awaited bill. “I can’t speculate as to what’s going to happen beyond what I know about it being reintroduced,” he stated. “I don’t know how they’re going to handle it procedurally or what kind of deals they’re trying to work out with the Democrats, but I do know that his staff on Friday was very adamant about the fact they were going to introduce it and get the ball rolling.” McKechnie added that CUNA was aware late last year that House Judiciary Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) wanted the Senate to move first with the bill this time. In previous years, the House had moved swiftly to overwhelmingly pass the bill, but it has been hung up in the Senate over the abortion clinic violence issue. [email protected]

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