But as with those planes that were flown into buildings and the levees that didn't hold, someone could have predicted that the bankruptcy bill would have an unhappy effect on victims of natural disasters like Katrina -- and someone, in fact, did. As the bill headed toward passage, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee noted that "natural disasters" are often a cause of bankruptcy filings. And as the committee deliberated, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee specifically warned her colleagues about the need to protect storm victims from the bill's strict new requirements.
"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," Jackson Lee said then. "The intent in providing federal and state monies to families who are victims of such natural disasters is to relieve the burden that the disaster has caused, not to increase their net worth. Bankruptcy reform should address many specific issues, such as the negligent mismanagement of money, but [to] hurt those who are already suffering from flooding or [a] collapsed roof or house that has gone out to sea is absolutely ridiculous."
The amendment Jackson Lee was proposing then went down on a voice vote in the Republican-controlled Judiciary Committee, and -- with the help of lots of Democrats in the House and in the Senate -- the bankruptcy bill went on to become law.