Congress Divided on Insurance Plans

By Dougherty, Carter | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 2, 2001 | Go to article overview

Congress Divided on Insurance Plans


Dougherty, Carter, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Byline: Carter Dougherty

House and Senate lawmakers yesterday outlined competing plans designed to ensure that insurance against terrorism remains available in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Republicans and Democrats in the Senate came together to formulate a plan for the government to share the costs of future terrorist attacks with the insurance industry. But in the House, both parties were unable to agree on a single approach.

Legislation has become necessary over the past six weeks as insurance companies have canceled terrorism insurance policies and said they cannot accurately gauge the risk of future attacks.

Without terrorism insurance, lenders will not fund the construction of new office buildings and other commercial property, and existing property owners will go without coverage. By most estimates, 70 percent of the terrorism policies in the United States will be canceled by the end of the year.

"Acting now is crucial to help ensure financing of business and economic development can continue uninterrupted," Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill said in a statement.

The Senate bill, which has the backing of Banking Committee Chairman Paul S. Sarbanes, Maryland Democrat, would have the federal government assume the cost of terrorist attacks above $10 billion, up to $100 billion, for two years.

The Treasury Department would then have the option of extending the program for a third year, in which the federal government would agree to pay claims that exceeded $20 billion.

"Only if we have a catastrophic event will the federal government become the [insurer] of last resort," said Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas, the top Republican on the banking panel.

Mr. Gramm also stressed that no money would go to insurance companies, but only to victims of terrorism with insurance coverage. …

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