Fourteen years later, Warren and Biden are expected to find themselves facing off again, this time on a much larger stage. And while a bill that passed in 2005 is unlikely to dominate the 2020 Democratic primaries, the fight over the bankruptcy legislation helped shape Warren politically and could be a surprising liability for Biden in the race to become his party’s choice to replace President Donald Trump.
The bill, which was signed in to law by George W. Bush two months after Biden and Warren tangled, made it harder for Americans to discharge the debts they accrue from things like credit cards and medical bills. According to one study, the law “benefited credit card companies and hurt their customers.” Delaware was home to one of the nation’s biggest credit card issuers at the time, and advocates on both sides of the debate saw Biden as trying to represent his state’s interests in Congress. But with emotions still raw about the banking bailouts of the Great Recession, some Democrats see Biden’s vote for the bill as part of a broader record that’s not as progressive as he’d like it to appear.
And the issue may have special resonance in a primary in which Democrats will be competing for the chance to try to defeat a president whose businesses have gone bankrupt half a dozen times, and who bragged, during the 2016 campaign, about using the nation’s bankruptcy laws “brilliantly” to his benefit.