Maine Politics

From the Piscataqua to the St. John

Thursday, March 17, 2005


I was shocked at the disingenuity of Snowe and Collins' letter today in the Sun Journal attempting a defense of their votes on the Bankruptcy bill. I couldn't understand how they could argue that this give-away to the credit card industry would ensure that wealthy individuals couldn't use bankruptcy to escape paying their bills or that it provided protection for service members, veterans, and those with severe health problems.

So I did what anyone in the internet age would do, I sent an email to one of the leading bankruptcy law experts in the world, Professor Elizabeth Warren of Harvard Law School.

Her response to the letter was the same as mine. "Just when I think I have seen everything, I see something else." was the beginning of the email reply I recieved five minutes later. She couldn't believe that Snowe and Collins had voted against so many amendments that would have helped those who need it most and were now claiming to have stood up for their constituents. "And now these two senators want to claim they are HELPING the military families?" she demanded.

Jason Spitalnick, one of her law students had more to say on the subject at the TPM Bankruptcy Blog:
If Maine’s senators were genuinely interested in these protections, they wouldn’t have voted against these amendments to protect debtors with severe health problems. And they wouldn’t have fought against Senator Durbin's effort to provide broad protection to active duty service members and their families. The truth is that Snowe and Collins voted for a weak amendment that provides rhetorical cover to senators instead of providing financial cover to distressed middle class families. These same families would be better off under current law; the bill, even as amended, just makes things worse.

Snowe and Collins are engaging in the politics of deception.

Michael Negron, also of TPM:BB, labels them hypocrites.

For me the scariest part of the Senators' letter isn't the lies about standing up for our troops, veterans and the sick, it's this part:
We find it curious that of all the votes cast in Congress on a variety of issues, the Sun Journal chose to examine political contributions regarding the bankruptcy reform bill, and to Maine's two Republican senators.

Here I'll quote one of their colleagues, Senator Feingold:
What is most disheartening is that so many Senators sent here to represent their constituents, to exercise their independent judgment for the good of their States and the country, have been willing to blindly follow instructions from the shadowy coalition of groups that are behind this bill--mainly the credit card industry--and vote down even the most reasonable of amendments. It is just sad when there is no debate on amendments, no discussion, no negotiation, just an edict from outside of the Senate, and the ``no'' votes follow every time.

As David Broder put it earlier this week, "Few policy battles... draw enough public and press interest for the legislators to feel real scrutiny. Most are in a netherworld where media coverage is cursory and interest groups' pressure determines the outcome. That's how bankruptcy reform made it through the Senate"

It is only public knowledge that will prevent this kind of craven politics from occurring. I find it incredibly disheartening to see the Sun Journal attacked for attempting to bring some attention to actions by our Senators that might otherwise go unnoticed by the people of Maine. That is their job as a newspaper and they should be commended for it.

Visit the new Maine Politics.


Isn't it true that the major changes to the bankruptcy law apply only to those with an income that is higher than the median income in the state that they live in? How many people who are elderly or sick are going to fit into that category?  

Posted by George

3/17/2005 08:50:00 PM


There are new regulations in the bill that make it harder for anyone to discharge their debts through bankruptcy, regardless of income.

In addition, the means test you refer to is completely arbitrary. At the last census, the median income in Maine was $37,240. So a family making $38,000 that has crushing medical expenses is screwed, (half of bankruptcies are the result of medical expenses, and most of those people have health insurance) while a wasteful spender making just under the limit gets off.

If someone is very rich, they can still shield their assets in their home (a loophole our senators voted to keep).

The bill isn't about stopping people from abusing the system, it's about getting more money from the middle class. 

Posted by Mike

3/18/2005 09:22:00 AM


The only regulation that I can find in the bill that applies to everyone is the requirement for credit counseling. What am I missing?

You have all the liberal talking points down by I can't find any specifics that I see as troubling.  

Posted by George

3/18/2005 09:39:00 PM


The regulations I refer to include new affidavits and paperwork and new liabilities for lawyers. This drives up the cost of the process.

There are also new deadlines that a judge can't waive(as Prof. Warren puts it) "even if someone has a heart attack or an ex-husband who won’t give up a copy of the tax returns, so that more people will get pushed out of bankruptcy with no discharge."

I understand there are also new regulations on chapter 13 increasing the payments necessary in a repayment plan.

Now I'm not a bankruptcy lawyer, and I don't play one on the internet. This is what I've learned reading about the bill. 

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3/19/2005 08:49:00 AM


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