Posted by Jeff from d53-239-229.try.wideopenwest.com (22.214.171.124) on Friday, November 15, 2002 at 0:37AM :
Summary of the article below. The bottom line is that not only do the Insurance companies make billions each year, now they don't even have to cover over a certain point... the US taxpayers will foot the bill. Very slick... they are very very slick.
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House OK's Terror Insurance Bill
1 hour, 53 minutes ago
By ALAN FRAM, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - The government would cover up to $90 billion annually in insurance claims from any future terrorist attacks under a compromise bill approved Thursday by the House as lawmakers sorted through their final stack of legislation for the year.
The terrorism insurance bill, approved by voice vote, began moving after telephone calls by President Bush (news - web sites) to Republican leaders in recent days broke a yearlong logjam. It was expected to be cleared quickly by the Senate and sent to Bush, who says the measure would invigorate the drooping economy.
"This legislation will put hard hats back to work, create construction jobs, improve the legal process and protect taxpayers," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.
To gain crucial Democratic support, Bush had to accept no limits on punitive damages, which many Republicans consider a boon to trial lawyers usually allied with Democrats. But GOP leaders said they would revisit the issue of tort reform next year, including the question of punitive damages.
"We're going to lock the doors of the federal Treasury against the trial lawyers," said Rep. Tom DeLay (news, bio, voting record), R-Texas, who will be the No. 2 GOP leader in the new Congress next year.
Lawmakers also sent Bush a bill aimed at thwarting terrorism at the country's 361 seaports, which are considered especially vulnerable to such attacks. The House used a voice vote and senators voted 95-0 for legislation requiring ports to develop security plans, though the measure lacked most of the hundreds of millions of dollars or more that such safeguards would cost.
The activity came as the lame-duck 107th Congress tried squeezing out a last batch of bills before its end. The House was hoping to adjourn for the year Thursday night, while the Senate seemed likely to work into next week on a measure creating a Homeland Security Department and other legislation.
As lawmakers worked into the evening:
_A bill tightening bankruptcy laws was derailed in the House after conservatives objected to language barring people from declaring bankruptcy to avoid paying fines for disrupting abortion clinics.
_The House voted 366-19 to prevent $60 billion in automatic spending cuts from occurring, which would have been triggered by the costs of last year's tax cut. Budget laws require such reductions if the deficit is increased, and lawmakers routinely vote to cancel them.
_The House by voice vote approved legislation extending the welfare law and some jobless benefits and paving the way for the administration to boost Medicare payments to doctors. The Senate used a voice vote to approve a bill containing only unemployment benefits more generous than the House's.
_The Senate confirmed 18 Bush nominees for federal judgeships.
The terrorism plan would put the government in the insurance business for the next three years. During this time, taxpayers would have to cover up to 90 percent of insured losses from major attacks, with the insurance industry covering up to the first $15 billion in annual claims.
The measure does not cover last year's terrorist attacks, which generated an estimated $40 billion in insured claims that insurers had to cover.
When the legislation stalled just before last week's elections, Bush used it as a campaign issue and criticized the Senate for not completing a bill that would stimulate the economy.
But in fact House GOP bargainers failed to agree to a compromise between the White House and House and Senate negotiators because of its lack of limits on punitive damages — the same deal that was moving through Congress on Thursday.
The breakthrough came after Bush spoke with leading lawmakers, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and DeLay, a foe of the measure who moves up to No. 2 House GOP leader in January.
Opponents ranging from conservative Senate Banking Committee Chairman Phil Gramm, R-Texas to the liberal-leaning Consumer Federation of America said the measure was too generous to an industry that weathered the Sept. 11 attacks better than insurers initially predicted.
"It requires American taxpayers to engage in an egregious form of national self-flagellation: American taxpayers are punished for the evil acts of foreign enemies," said another foe, House Judiciary Committee (news - web sites) Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis.
Bush says the measure will aid the economy by allowing the resumption of thousands of building projects stalled by lack of such insurance. Supporters have said the bill could free up $15 billion in construction and real estate business and 300,000 jobs — figures that opponents say are overblown.
The insurance and real estate industry have been lobbying for passage of the bill. After the vote, Rodger S. Lawson, president of the industry group Alliance of American Insurers, said the bill "will be very helpful for insurance markets and the overall economy."
When the measure failed to pass Congress last December, insurance groups and many economists warned of disruptions to the economy from rising insurance premiums and refusals by some companies to offer coverage in some areas.
But the Consumer Federation of America says insurers reported a 66.4 percent increase in profits in the first six months of 2002.
"We've got a very vigorous private market for terrorism insurance since Sept. 11," said consumer federation legislative director Travis Plunkett. "The taxpayer is picking up too much of the tab."
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