By a 74-25 margin, the Senate easily passed legislation toughening the nation's bankruptcy laws and thereby making it more difficult for consumers to wipe out their debts. The bill now will go before the House and, if passed, will be signed into law by President Bush. "By reforming the system with this commonsense approach, more Americans -- especially lower-income Americans -- will have greater access to credit," the president said in a statement. Both credit card providers and the retail industry have been pushing for bankruptcy reform for years, while critics argue that the reform legislation serves as a reward for lenders who aggressively market consumers to assume higher debt. "This bill sacrifices the hopes and dreams of average Americans to the rampant greed of the credit card industry," said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. "This bill targets the abusers of the system, not those who legitimately need help," said Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., a member of the Senate Banking Committee. The reform bill also contains a means test to determine if people should enter compulsory repayment plans.

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