KURITA BLASTS BANKRUPTCY VOTE

Senate candidate calls measure 'Christmas gift' for credit-card companies.

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State Senator Rosalind Kurita of Clarksville, as of now the only declared Democratic candidate for U.S. Senator in 2006, released a statement on Friday that was highly critical of both the bankruptcy bill passed Thursday by the House of Representatives in Washington and, by implication, those members of Congress who voted for it.

One of those, of course, is her likely rival for the Democratic nomination, 9th District U.S. Rep. Harold Ford of Memphis. Ford, who had signed a letter asking for the bill's consideration, joined other members of the Tennessee delegation, both Democratic and Republican, in casting a vote for the measure, which passed by a margin of 302-126. It had previously passed the Senate by a 74-25 vote on March 10, with both Tennessee senators, Bill Frist and Lamar Alexander voting Aye. President Bush is expected to sign the measure into law in short order.

The bill had been stoutly opposed by the Democratic leadership of the House of Representatives. "This bill seeks to squeeze even more money for credit-card companies from the most hard-pressed Americans'' and turn bankrupt consumers into "modern-day indentured servants," said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California on Thursday.

In a statement condemning the bill as having been based on a false sense of Òcrisis,Ó Kurita termed it Òan early Christmas gift to big credit cards companies and a lump of coal to a number of Americans who are working hard and struggle to get by.Ó She added pointedly, Ò...[W]e need a few more Members of the U.S. Senate experienced as caring for patients and not caring about the special interests."

What the bill does, essentially, is close certain long-established loopholes on individual bankruptcies and prevent filers above the poverty line from escaping their indebtedness altogether, requiring them to employ Chapter 13 remedies and to arrange for installment payments with creditors.

Critics of the bill have said that it would seriously jeopardize middle-income households, especially those subjected to economic stress as a result of unforeseen medical costs and unemployment

A study conducted at Harvard University of 1.771 personal bankruptcy filers in five federal courts pinpointed heavy medical costs as the factor that forced about half of the filings.

That study was introduced into Congressional testimony by opponents of the bill, as was a letter from 104 bankruptcy law professors who said that hardship would be greatest in heartland states where bankruptcy filing rates are highest. The academics listed Tennessee prominently among the states cited.

KuritaÕs complete statement is as follows:

ROSALIND KURITA ON BANKRUPTCY

"More leaders in congress should have worked to improve this bankruptcy bill or stop this bill.

"It is an early Christmas gift to big credit cards companies and a lump of coal to a number of Americans who are working hard and struggle to get by.

"While I have always been an advocate of personal responsibility and condemn anyone who manipulates the system, it is clear we do not have a crisis of people wrongly filing for bankruptcy.

"We do have thousands of families wiped out due to the skyrocketing cost of health care and we have a culture where credit card companies nearly entrap people into signing up for more cards and incurring more debt so they can profit from high interest payments. A number of reports have shown that a huge percentage of people who file for bankruptcy do so because of health care expenses that insurance companies have refused to pay.

"We have seen no proposals to reform health care, but we have seen this proposal to hurt families wiped out by the high cost of health care.

"This is why as a registered nurse I believe we need a few more Members of the U.S. Senate experienced as caring for patients and not caring about the special interests."

Kurita will bring her Senate campaign to Memphis next week, appearing at a luncheon meeting of the Memphis Women's Foundation for a Greater Memphis at The Peabody on Thursday.

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