The Senate has passed a consumer bankruptcy bill by a 74-25 vote, clearing the measure -- which addresses some foreclosure issues -- for quick action in the House.The bill is the product of eight years of congressional debates and amendments, according to the American Bankers Association. "The time has come for this fair and balanced bill to become law," ABA executive vice president Edward Yingling said. The 500-page bill (S.256) contains language that prohibits bankruptcy judges from reducing the amount of a debtor's mortgage. This cram-down provision reinforces a Supreme Court decision, but it could become controversial if housing prices start to decline. One provision sought by the Mortgage Bankers Association would remove a $4 million cap on single-asset bankruptcies so that owners of large commercial properties cannot drag out the bankruptcy process and delay foreclosure at the lender's expense. "We are very pleased the Senate has passed this legislation," MBA senior vice president Kurt Pfotenhauer said. President Bush has signaled that he is ready to sign the bankruptcy bill.

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