Sunday, March 25, 2007

Hillary Clinton and the Bankruptcy Bill of 2005

Garance Franke-Ruta is waging a fairly lonely crusade in defense of Hillary Clinton at the Prospect site. Most of the comments concern Hillary's attempts to triangulate, including her vote for the Iraq war and her flag burning legislation, but one of the comments repeats a common misperception that she supported the 2005 Bankruptcy Bill.

Some of the confusion seems to come from this recent PBS interview between Maria Hinojosa and Elizabeth Warren (a bankruptcy expert):
HINOJOSA: There's a story that I wanna share with our listeners that you actually shared when you were on Now—on our TV program and it's a fascinating story about Hillary Clinton. You said that when the credit card companies were pushing for legislation to tighten the bankruptcy laws, and this is when President Clinton was in office you were summoned by Hillary Clinton to discuss this legislation. And you sat down with her in this back room and you filled her in on what this new bankruptcy law was gonna mean.

And she at that moment said, "Oh my God. We have to stop this law. It's not gonna happen." It gets passed in Congress and Bill Clinton, because of Hillary's conversation with you more or less, vetoes that bill. Now we fast forward to Senator Hillary Clinton, bankruptcy law comes for a vote and she votes for it?

WARREN: Yes.
Reading that excerpt of the transcript, it's easy to assume that Warren is confirming that Hillary Clinton voted for the bankruptcy bill (S.256) which stripped protections for people in debt.

In fact, Hillary Clinton was the sole Senator not voting on the bill. This was pointed out incriminatingly by Jackson Williams at the Huffington post.
Speaking of profiles in courage, the bankruptcy bill passed the senate by a vote of 74-25. You'll notice that adds up to 99 senators. So who happened to be the one senator absent that day? Why, Hillary Clinton, the wife of the man who twice vetoed that turkey
But in fact it was also clarified by Elizabeth Warren in the PBS interview cited above:
WARREN: Mrs. Clinton, in a much more secure position—as Senator a couple of years later—when the bill came up once again—Senator Clinton was not there—the day of the vote. It was the day that President Clinton, you may remember, had heart surgery. But she issued a very strong press release condemning the bill and I assume if she had been there that she would have voted against it.
From Senator Clinton's official statement on the bill:
This bankruptcy bill fundamentally fails to accord with the traditional purposes of bankruptcy, which recognize that we are all better off when hard-working people who have suffered financial catastrophe get a "fresh start" and a second chance to become productive and contributing members of society. With the passage of this legislation, which makes obtaining this fresh start more expensive and more difficult, we are ensuring that many responsible Americans will continue to be buried under mountains of debt, and unable to take back control and responsibility for their lives.
In the days before S.256 was finally brought to the floor Senator Clinton voted for every amendment which would have added consumer protections to the bankruptcy bill. Amendments which were repeatedly rejected by both the Republican majority and far too many Democrats. She even voted against cloture in an attempt to keep the final bill from coming to a vote at all.

For the record:

Barack Obama and Chris Dodd voted against the final bill.

Dennis Kucinich voted against the House version.

Joe Biden voted for it.
In fact he championed it in the Senate, which is why he's far less likely to get progressive support than Hillary is.

The Republicans (including John McCain, Sam Brownback, Duncan Hunter, Tom Tancredo and Ron Paul) were unanimous in their support for the legislation.

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Note: this post was written about the Bankruptcy Bill of 2005 (S.256) which became law, not the earlier Bankruptcy Bill of 2001 (S.420) which did not.

Several commentors correctly noted that Hillary Clinton supported the earlier bill (although she voted for amendments adding consumer protections in that bill as well). She wasn't the only Democrat to change her position (voting for the 2001 bill and against the 2005 bill) and I'm not qualified to compare the differences between them.

However, several articles have discussed her change of position, including this recent article in the NYTimes.

For what it's worth, Democratic Senators Akaka, Cantwell, Dorgan, Feinstein, Leahy, Levin, Lieberman, Mikulski, Murray, Nelson (Fl), Schumer and Wyden switched in the same direction as Clinton. John Edwards, who also voted for the 2001 bill, suggested he would have switched his vote as well.

Republican Senators Brownback and Hutchinson switched from voting against the bill in 2001 to voting for it in 2005.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for clearing tat up for me--one of the major stumbling blocks for my support of Hillary Clinton was that interviwew on "Now with ill Moyers" and the Bankruptcy Bill.
I was under the impression that she had indeed voted for it--i didn't realize that she was with her husband while he was undergoing surgery...
More research to come on my part.
Angie

Anonymous said...

I thought since she did not vote for the bill that she was shunning the possibility of a stance on the issue. since she was only absent because of a family support matter. I can now feel more comfortable with her as a Presidential candidtate.

Buff Crone said...

Sorry, but this is wrong. She voted for the same bill twice before on the floor of the Senate:
In 2001:
http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=107&session=1&vote=00236
In 2002:
U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes, 107th Cong., 1st Session, Vote No. 36 on S. 420 at http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/
roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=107&session=1&vote=00036

Peter said...

I am a Bankruptcy Attorney and can verified most of what Buff Crone posted. The bankruptcy bill that was passed by the Senate in 2005 was essentially the same as the bill considered by the Senate in 2001. The 2001 bill was also very similar to the 1999 bill which passed congress only to be vetoed by President Clinton (this was a "pocket veto; he failed to sign the bill after congress recessed and so it was automatically vetoed.)

The 2001 bill was titled S-420 in the Senate. It ran the same 500+ pages of countless changes to the bankruptcy process, all of which have made it much more difficult and expensive for people to file bankruptcy. On March 14, 2001, the Senate voted 80 to 19 to invoke closure (that is, put a limit on debate and avoid a filibuster) and allow the bill to come to a vote. Senator Clinton voted against closure (107th Congress senate vote #29.) The next day, March 15, 2001, the Senate voted for the bill itself, which passed 83 to 15, with Senator Clinton voting in favor of it (vote #36.) There were some modest differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill (HR-333) in 2001, and it died in conference committee. Crone is incorrect in listing vote #36 as having been in 2002; it was actually in 2001, as I said, and was the last bankruptcy bill activity until March 2005.

The 2005 bill was entitled S256. The congressional supporters of the legislation wanted to make sure there was no repeat of 2001 where minor differences between the House and Senate killed the bill, so in 2005 the Senate managers made sure that all amendments approved by the Senate were acceptable to the House ahead of time, so the Senate version was approved March 10 and then approved without change by the House April 24. Senator Clinton, along with other opponents of the bill, voted against closure on March 8, 2005 (109th Congress Senate vote #29; closure approved 69-31). There were 21 other votes on various amendments, and Senator Clinton yea or nay all 21 times in the minority; that is, consistent with the votes of senators opposed to the bill (see Senate votes 12-18, 20-27, 30-35.) So, for the record, it would be fair to say Senator Clinton voted in favor of the 2001 bill and voted against the nearly-identical 2005 bill.

Information on all these votes can be found on thomas.loc.gov, the official legislative-tracking site of the Library of Congress.

Anonymous said...

Why is it, then, that VoteSmart.org has HRC listed as NV = nonvoting for the 2005 Bankruptcy Bill?
http://www.votesmart.org/voting_category.php?can_id=55463

I'd hate to think they were misrepresentin'. ;-)

I'm absolutely pro-Clinton. Unashamedly so. Go Hillary!

Anonymous said...

"55463" was the end of that URL I just posted.

Tony said...

good Job! :)