A New Confidence in Washington

By | May 21, 2001

There was a different feeling this year on Capitol Hill. As the independent agents and I straightened our suits and gathered our briefing materials, the pressure seemed to be off in some way. We were there; we were dedicated—but we were relaxed.

Maybe it was just me—back for my sophomore year at the IIAA Leg Conference, I was feeling relatively confident, or at least I knew I could read the subway map to find the meetings. Maybe it was the recent change in leadership at the Big “I”; maybe it was just the warm breath of summer on the way.

But the unmistakable feeling among industry leaders was relief that the Clinton era had ended. In an issues briefing at the White House, the Bush team emphasized repeatedly that “the eight-year hiatus” was over.

In other words, they’re ba-a-ack. Scary news for some; good news for the insurance industry.

Bush’s tax-cut is reportedly the largest in almost 20 years, and falls nicely in line with IIAA priorities of repealing estate taxes and reducing marginal tax rates.

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) shared with agents that during a recent meeting with President Bush he was told reducing rates on the top bracket is most important because of its significant impact on small business. “The President has done something very fair and equitable in the tax code,” Santorum said. “Everybody’s focused on the number. The question is ‘what’s going to be reduced?'”

As Bob Rusbuldt, newly crowned CEO of the Big “I,” put it: “There’s a feeding frenzy on Capitol Hill right now to see who can get their tax cuts through faster.”

In those few days in Washington we made our annual impact, but it’s the “residual effect that creates a lasting impression for months after you all leave,” Rusbuldt told us.

James Armitage, state national director for IBA West, has been making the annual pilgrimage to Washington for about 10 years and said the conference hasn’t really changed that much. “It’s the issues and the players that change,” Armitage commented. “Things move a lot quicker in the state; whereas issues on a national level can take forever. When you go back for 10 years, some things start getting done—you see issues resolved, compromises made.”

The highlight for Armitage? A lengthy meeting in Congressman Adam Schiff’s office in which Schiff really listened to what the agents had to say and expressed his own insight into the issues. “It evolved into a philosophical discussion that gave me a real insider’s view,” Armitage said.

What are the odds of finding yourself in a philosophical discussion with your Congressman? Maybe that’s what happens at the beginning of a new Presidential era when summer’s on the way in Washington.

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Insurance Journal West May 21, 2001
May 21, 2001
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