Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Democrats Tried To Protect Disaster Victims From 2005 Bankruptcy Bill

Anyone who followed the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, knows that right up until the fraudulently-named bill's passage, Democrats in both houses of Congress proposed many amendments to shield average Americans from the legislation's harmful, pro-corporate agenda.

Amendments that would have protected low-income Americans, single mothers and the elderly -- harmed by shady corporate bankruptcies depriving them of their retirement savings -- failed along strict party-line votes. Republicans, as always, voted overwhelmingly against the interests of low and middle-income citizens on every one of these amendments.

It is especially timely to note that, before the bankruptcy bill's passage in early 2005, Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee also attempted to amend the bankruptcy bill by exempting victims of natural disasters -- such as major hurricanes -- from the legislation.

Said Jackson-Lee at the time:

"This is a circumstance that will confront all of our States, whether it is a flood, a hurricane, certainly any natural disaster that we can imagine has confronted individual States. We know recently that Florida suffered a historic three hurricanes or more in 2004. Families that are affected by natural disasters such as a hurricane in Florida or the mudslides in California should not have to apply their scarce relief effort monies to bankruptcy debt.

"I'd ask my colleagues to support this, which exempts the benefits that you've received if you have suffered a natural disaster. Again, I started out my concern about this legislation in that it is class warfare. I simply ask my colleagues to find some sense of balance to be able to balance this legislation with those middle-class and working families who are simply trying to make ends meet."

That amendment was also quickly snuffed along party lines by the Republican majority.

Fast forward to just last week. Jackson-Lee along with Representatives John Conyers, Jr, Mel Watt and Jerrold Nadler are gamely trying to have another go at the Republicans on this one. They have announced that they intend to once again introduce legislation to protect the thousands of people left financially devastated by Hurricane Katrina from being penalized under the bankruptcy bill, which will take effect on October 17.

Will the white-hot glare of publicity surrounding this disaster make Congressional Republicans at least pretend to care about the poor? Possibly. But let's not let them pat themselves on the back if they are forced to show a sliver of decency, based solely on the shameful performance of their party in the wake of this hurricane and the specter of the unnecessary deaths caused by their heartless and incompetent leadership.

Republicans may change their tune and vote for the amendment this time – but only because their shame in refusing again will be so much more visible now.