The Senate Judiciary Committee today voted 13-5 to pass a class-action reform bill.[@@]

The bill passed by a strong margin despite efforts by some Democrats on the committee to add crippling amendments.

The action clears the way for prompt Senate action. Senate Majority Leader William Frist, R-Tenn., said earlier in the week that he might get the bill to the Senate floor as early as Monday.

The bill nearly passed the Senate in 2004.

One part of the bill would assign multistate class-action suits seeking more than $5 million to the sole jurisdiction of federal courts.

The bill would let states maintain authority over genuine intrastate cases, to protect states’ ability to enforce their consumer-protection laws, but the bill would limit “venue shopping,” to prevent litigants from seeking friendly court systems. The bill would require a plaintiff to bring a claim in a venue with a substantial connection to the injury.

Many members of the House would like to pass a bill imposing stronger limits on class-action suits, but House leaders have signaled that the bill will be accepted in the House if it passes in the Senate in its current form.

Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, the House majority leader, said at a Republican retreat last weekend that the present Senate bill is acceptable to the House.