JUSTICE WHITE announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an opinion in which THE CHIEF JUSTICE, JUSTICE O'CONNOR, and JUSTICE KENNEDY join.
The issue presented by this case is whether § 106(c) of the Bankruptcy Code, 11 U. S. C. § 106(c), authorizes a bankruptcy court to issue a money judgment against a State that has not filed a proof of claim in the bankruptcy proceeding.
Petitioner Martin W. Hoffman is the bankruptcy trustee for Willington Convalescent Home, Inc. (Willington), and
Petitioner likewise filed an adversarial proceeding in United States Bankruptcy Court on behalf of Edward Zera against respondent Connecticut Department of Revenue Services. Zera owed the State of Connecticut unpaid taxes, penalties, and interest, and in the month prior to Zera's filing for bankruptcy the Revenue Department had issued a tax warrant resulting in a payment of $2,100.62. Petitioner sought to avoid the payment as a preference and recover the amount paid. See 11 U. S. C. § 547(b).
Respondents moved to dismiss both actions as barred by the Eleventh Amendment. In each case the Bankruptcy Court denied the motions to dismiss, reasoning that Congress in § 106(c) had abrogated the States' Eleventh Amendment immunity from actions under §§ 542(b) and 547(b) of the Bankruptcy Code and that Congress had authority to do so under the Bankruptcy Clause of the United States Constitution, Art. I, § 8, cl. 4. Respondents appealed to the United States District Court, and the United States intervened because of the challenge to the constitutionality of § 106. The District Court reversed without reaching the issue of congressional authority. 72 B.R. 1002 (Conn. 1987). The court held that § 106(c), when read with the other provisions of § 106, did not unequivocally abrogate Eleventh Amendment immunity.
The Second Circuit's decision conflicts with the decisions of the Third Circuit in Vazquez v. Pennsylvania Dept. of Public Welfare, 788 F.2d 130, 133, cert. denied, 479 U.S. 936 (1986), and the Seventh Circuit in McVey Trucking, Inc. v. Secretary of State of Illinois, 812 F.2d 311, 326-327, cert. denied, 484 U.S. 895 (1987). We granted certiorari to resolve the conflict, 488 U.S. 1003 (1989), and we now affirm.
Section 106 provides as follows:
Neither § 106(a) nor § 106(b) provides a basis for petitioner's actions here, since respondents did not file a claim in either Chapter 7 proceeding. Instead, petitioner relies on § 106(c), which he asserts subjects "governmental units," which includes States, 11 U. S. C. § 101(26), to all provisions of the Bankruptcy Code containing any of the "trigger" words in § 106(c)(1). Both the turnover provision, § 542(b), and the preference provision, § 547(b), contain trigger words — "an entity" is required to pay to the trustee a debt that is the property of the estate, and a trustee can under appropriate circumstances avoid the transfer of property to "a creditor." Therefore, petitioner reasons, those provisions apply to respondents "notwithstanding any assertion of sovereign immunity," including Eleventh Amendment immunity.
We disagree. As we have repeatedly stated, to abrogate the States' Eleventh Amendment immunity from suit in federal court, which the parties do not dispute would otherwise bar these actions, Congress must make its intention "unmistakably clear in the language of the statute." Atascadero State Hospital v. Scanlon, supra, at 242; see also Dellmuth v. Muth, 491 U.S. 223, 227-228 (1989); Welch v. Texas Dept. of Highways and Public Transp., 483 U.S. 468, 474 (1987) (plurality opinion). In our view, § 106(c) does not satisfy this standard.
Initially, the narrow scope of the waivers of sovereign immunity in §§ 106(a) and (b) makes it unlikely that Congress adopted in § 106(c) the broad abrogation of Eleventh Amendment immunity for which petitioner argues. The language of § 106(a) carefully limits the waiver of sovereign immunity
We believe that § 106(c)(2) operates as a further limitation on the applicability of § 106(c), narrowing the type of relief to which the section applies. Section 106(c)(2) is joined with subsection (c)(1) by the conjunction "and." It provides that a "determination" by the bankruptcy court of an "issue" "binds governmental units." This language differs significantly from the wording of §§ 106(a) and (b), both of which use the word "claim," defined in the Bankruptcy Code as including a "right to payment." See 11 U. S. C. § 101(4)(A). Nothing in § 106(c) provides a similar express authorization for monetary recovery from the States.
The language of § 106(c)(2) is more indicative of declaratory and injunctive relief than of monetary recovery. The clause echoes the wording of sections of the Code such as § 505, which provides that "the court may determine the amount or legality of any tax," 11 U. S. C. § 505(a)(1), a determination of an issue that obviously should bind the governmental unit but that does not require a monetary recovery from a State. We therefore construe § 106(c) as not authorizing monetary recovery from the States. Under this construction of § 106 (c), a State that files no proof of claim would be bound, like other creditors, by discharge of debts in bankruptcy, including unpaid taxes, see Neavear v. Schweiker, 674 F.2d 1201, 1204 (CA7 1982); cf. Gwilliam v. United States, 519 F.2d 407, 410 (CA9 1975), but would not be subjected to monetary recovery.
Petitioner contends that the language of the sections containing the trigger words supplies the necessary authorization for monetary recovery from the States. This interpretation, however, ignores entirely the limiting language of § 106(c)(2). Indeed, § 106(c), as interpreted by petitioner, would have exactly the same effect if subsection (c)(2) had been totally omitted. "It is our duty `to give effect, if possible, to every clause and word of a statute,' " United States v. Menasche, 348 U.S. 528, 538-539 (1955) (quoting Montclair v. Ramsdell, 107 U.S. 147, 152 (1883)), and neither petitioner nor his amicus suggests any effect that their interpretation gives to subsection (c)(2).
Finally, petitioner's reliance on the legislative history of § 106(c) is also misplaced. He points in particular to floor statements to the effect that "section 106(c) permits a trustee or debtor in possession to assert avoiding powers under title 11 against a governmental unit." See 124 Cong. Rec. 32394
The weakness in petitioner's argument is more fundamental, however, as the Second Circuit properly recognized. As we observed in Dellmuth v. Muth, 491 U. S., at 230, "[l]egislative history generally will be irrelevant to a judicial inquiry into whether Congress intended to abrogate the Eleventh Amendment." If congressional intent is unmistakably clear in the language of the statute, reliance on committee reports and floor statements will be unnecessary, and if it is not, Atascadero will not be satisfied. 491 U. S., at 228-229. Similarly, the attempts of petitioner and his amicus to construe § 106(c) in light of the policies underlying the Bankruptcy Code are unavailing. These arguments are not based in the text of the statute and so, too, are not helpful in determining whether the command of Atascadero is satisfied. See 491 U. S., at 230.
We hold that in enacting § 106(c) Congress did not abrogate the Eleventh Amendment immunity of the States. Therefore, petitioner's actions in United States Bankruptcy Court under §§ 542(b) and 547(b) of the Code are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Since we hold that Congress did not abrogate Eleventh Amendment immunity by enacting § 106 (c), we need not address whether it had the authority to do so under its bankruptcy power. Cf. Pennsylvania v. Union Gas Co., 491 U.S. 1 (1989). The judgment of the Second Circuit is affirmed.
It is so ordered.
Although I agree with JUSTICE SCALIA that Congress may not abrogate the States' Eleventh Amendment immunity by enacting a statute under the Bankruptcy Clause, a majority of the Court addresses instead the question whether Congress expressed a clear intention to abrogate the States' Eleventh Amendment immunity. On the latter question, I agree with JUSTICE WHITE and join the plurality's opinion.
JUSTICE SCALIA, concurring in the judgment.
I concur in the Court's judgment that "petitioner's actions in United States Bankruptcy Court under §§ 542(b) and 547(b) of the [Bankruptcy] Code are barred by the Eleventh Amendment." Ante, at 104. I reach this conclusion, however, not on the plurality's basis that "Congress did not abrogate Eleventh Amendment immunity" of the States, ibid., but on the ground that it had no power to do so. As I explained in my opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part in Pennsylvania v. Union Gas Co., 491 U.S. 1, 35-42 (1989), it makes no sense to affirm the constitutional principle established by Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1 (1890), that " `a suit directly against a State by one of its own citizens is not one to which the judicial power of the United States extends, unless the State itself consents to be sued,' " Welch v. Texas Dept. of Highways and Public Transp., 483 U.S. 468, 486 (1987) (plurality opinion), quoting Hans, supra, at 21 (Harlan, J., concurring), and to hold at the same time that Congress can override this principle by statute in the exercise of its Article I powers. Union Gas involved Congress' powers under the Commerce Clause, but there is no basis for treating its powers under the Bankruptcy Clause any differently. Accordingly, I would affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals without the necessity of considering whether Congress intended to exercise a power it did not possess.
In my view, the language of § 106(c) of the Bankruptcy Code (Code), 11 U. S. C. § 106(c), satisfies even the requirement that Congress' intent to abrogate the States' Eleventh Amendment immunity be "unmistakably clear." Atascadero State Hospital v. Scanlon, 473 U.S. 234, 242 (1985). Because Congress clearly expressed its intent to authorize a bankruptcy court to issue a money judgment against a State that has not filed a proof of claim in a bankruptcy proceeding, and because Congress has the authority under the Bankruptcy Clause to abrogate the States' Eleventh Amendment immunity, I respectfully dissent.
Section 106(c) states that, "notwithstanding any assertion of sovereign immunity," any Code provision containing one of the trigger words — "creditor," "entity," or "governmental unit" — applies to the States, and that "a determination by the court of an issue arising under such a provision binds [the States]" (emphasis added). The drafters of § 106(c) were fully aware of "the requirement in case law that an express waiver of sovereign immunity is required in order to be effective." 124 Cong. Rec. 32394 (1978) (statement of Rep. Edwards); id., at 33993 (statement of Sen. DeConcini); see Employees v. Missouri Dept. of Public Health and Welfare, 411 U.S. 279, 285 (1973). They therefore carefully abrogated the States' sovereign immunity in three steps. First, they eliminated "any assertion of sovereign immunity." § 106(c). Second, they included States within the trigger words used elsewhere in the Code. § 106(c)(1). Third, they provided that States would be bound by the orders of the bankruptcy court. § 106(c)(2). What the plurality sees as redundancy in subsections (c)(1) and (c)(2) is thus more reasonably understood as evidence of the importance Congress attached to
By its terms, § 106(c) makes no distinction between Code provisions that contain trigger words and permit only injunctive and declaratory relief, and Code provisions that contain trigger words and permit money judgments. Nevertheless, by placing heavy emphasis on the word "determination" in § 106(c)(2), the plurality concludes that § 106(c), in its entirety, is "more indicative of declaratory and injunctive relief than of monetary recovery." Ante, at 102. The plurality justifies this conclusion by accepting an analogy to the use of the word "determine" in a Code provision dealing with taxes, § 505(a)(1), while rejecting an equally compelling analogy to the use of the word "determine" in the Code's jurisdictional provision, 28 U. S. C. § 157(b)(1) (1982 ed., Supp. V). But instead of trying to force meaning into the word "determination" through competing analogies to other Code provisions, we should give decisive weight to the explicit language abrogating sovereign immunity.
The plurality correctly points out that the abrogation of sovereign immunity in § 106(c) should not be read to overwhelm
Nothing could be further from the truth, for most of the Code provisions containing trigger words do not contemplate money judgments. Some provide States, in their role as creditors or entities, with rights against the debtor.
By expressly including States within the terms "creditor" and "entity," Congress intended States generally to be treated the same as ordinary "creditors" and "entities," who are subject to money judgments in a relatively small number of Code provisions. The effect of today's decision is to exempt States from these provisions, which are crucial to the efficacy of the Code. The plurality therefore ignores Congress' careful choice of language and turns States into preferred
My conclusion that Congress intended § 106(c) to abrogate the States' Eleventh Amendment immunity against money judgments requires me to decide whether Congress has the authority under the Bankruptcy Clause to do so.
For the reasons stated, I respectfully dissent.
JUSTICE STEVENS, with whom JUSTICE BLACKMUN joins, dissenting.
While I join JUSTICE MARSHALL's dissenting opinion, I think it is appropriate to explain why the legislative history of 11 U. S. C. § 106 lends added support to his reading of the statute.
The drafters of the Bankruptcy Code were well aware of the value to the bankruptcy administration process of a waiver of federal and state sovereign immunity. In 1973, five years before the Code was enacted, the Commission on the Bankruptcy Laws of the United States proposed a broad
The sponsors later added:
Although the primary object of § 106(c) was to provide the bankruptcy court with authority to determine the amount and dischargeability of tax liabilities even if a claim has not been filed, the legislative history thus indicates that the provision was also intended to cover "other matters as well," including specifically the avoidance of preferential transfers. There was no suggestion that this authority did not include the power to order the return of real property and the payment of money damages or that the issues that the bankruptcy court could determine under § 106(c) were limited to whether prospective or declaratory relief was appropriate.
The fact that paragraph (c) was added to the bill after paragraphs (a) and (b) had been reported out of Committee also explains why those paragraphs were not rewritten to eliminate any possible redundancy in the section. Given this history it is apparent that the initial phrase in paragraph (c) ("[e]xcept as provided in subsections (a) and (b)") constituted a declaration that the new subsection provided an additional mechanism by which the bankruptcy courts could bind States and did not derogate from the power granted under the other two subsections.
Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed for the State of Arizona, by Robert K. Corbin, Attorney General, and Anthony B. Ching, Solicitor General; and for the State of Illinois et al. by Neil F. Hartigan, Attorney General of Illinois, Robert J. Ruiz, Solicitor General, and James C. O'Connell and Barbara L. Greenspan, Special Assistant Attorneys General, and by the Attorneys General for their respective States as follows: Warren Price III of Hawaii, Linley E. Pearson of Indiana, William J. Guste, Jr., of Louisiana, Frank J. Kelley of Michigan, Robert M. Spire of Nebraska, John P. Arnold of New Hampshire, Lacy H. Thornburg of North Carolina, Nicholas J. Spaeth of North Dakota, T. Travis Medlock of South Carolina, Charles W. Burson of Tennessee, James Mattox of Texas, R. Paul Van Dam of Utah, Jeffrey L. Amestoy of Vermont, Mary Sue Terry of Virginia, Charles G. Brown of West Virginia, and Donald J. Hanaway of Wisconsin.