The Senate Judiciary Committee delayed voting on a bill that would authorize bankruptcy courts to establish a mediation program in foreclosure cases nationwide. It is the second delay in as many months. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) sponsored the bill. He said in a hearing Thursday that these programs are already in place in Vermont, Rhode Island, Iowa, Connecticut, several districts in New York and Florida. But Republicans opposing the bill filed nearly 20 amendments since February. Rep. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) was adamant that they were not attempting to filibuster the bill. "Most homeowners are unable to find any human being with any authority they could talk to. You would think that was simple," Whitehouse said. "Bankruptcy is no fun. It is expensive. It wrecks your credit. This bill would simply give them someone they can get a hold of. That doesn't seem like it's asking very much." However, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said bankruptcy judges already have the ability to make the parties come in and discuss a potential mediation. He added that the bill would extend foreclosure timelines further and delay a housing recovery. "I understand the problem," Kyl said. "But the sooner we get the cases resolved, the sooner we get to the bottom of the real estate market, the sooner we get to recover. Is it necessary to give the judge the very subjective authority to determine that a party is not negotiating in good faith?" But Whitehouse said the problem is the lenders "aren't bothering to come in at all." One of his constituents complained of trying to reach a lender for up to 19 months. Robert Drain, a judge for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, testified before the committee in February that half of the mediations taking place in his court's loss-mitigation program end in an agreement, often a modification. Of the 2,000 loss-mitigation requests by homeowners Drain oversaw, only 90 were objected to by the banks. In Iowa, homeowners made 11,000 calls into the mediation program, with nearly half ending up in a workout with one-third still in negotiation. Whitehouse added that the program doesn't change the system all that much. The Rhode Island program has been challenged in a lawsuit, and Whitehouse said this bill would clear that lawsuit he said "has no merit" and it would give other judges across the country to establish their own programs. Washington thinktank MF Global said in a report Thursday that the program could facilitate more modifications and keep foreclosure levels down. This is vital, analysts said, for a housing market overly saturated with these properties. However, they pointed out that the programs will only be as beneficial as the quality of modifications they produce. "In addition, there is a risk that lenders will feel pressured to offer help to those who can afford their loans," MFGlobal said. "That could raise the risk that borrowers who might otherwise avoid bankruptcy would file to get relief on their mortgage. They also would get help on their other debts, especially credit card debt." Analysts said there is a good chance the committee will pass the bill, but it is destined to die in the House of Representatives, where Republicans hold a majority. Still, Whitehouse stressed the bill would be beneficial for all parties involved, and that even the lenders have approved these programs. "It's beneficial to homeowners, investors, lenders and taxpayers when you can clear these things up more quickly," Whitehouse said. Write to Jon Prior. Follow him on Twitter: @JonAPrior