WASHINGTON, D.C.The chairman of the powerful House Financial Services Committee said here April 11 that he likes the chances for eventual passage of a federal government backup for terrorism insurance.
Rep. Mike Oxley (R-Ohio) reminded the annual Legislative Conference of the Independent Insurance Agents of America that the House was to pass a bill since before Thanksgiving and that President Bush has lately thrown his support behind the idea.
Of the latter, he said, “The vibes we got were encouraging because it told us that the President was focused in on the issue”, an indication to him that something will get done.
Calling insurance “a workhorse of the American economy”, Oxley said the federal backstop issue has emerged as more than just an insurance issue, but as a broad economic issue. “It’s difficult to quantify in hard economic terms,” he said, ” but clearly it’s a drag on the economy.”
The Senate, however, is dragging its feet and playing politics with the issue, Oxley suggested, castigating his fellow lawmakers for ignoring the needs of the economy and the necessity of preparing the nation for future terrorist attacks.
He drew applause and laughter when he urged the agent delegates to the conference, when they visit Capitol Hill to lobby their congressmen on insurance issues, ask their Senators to pass their own “stimulus package”, one that will “stimulate the Senate” into acting on the issue.
“The bottom line,” he said, “is the Senate needs to stop protecting the trial lawyers and start protecting American jobs.”
Rep. Oxley also commented on three other major insurance issues:
Regulation: He said the Financial Services Committee will continue to look at uniformity proposals though “the goal remains elusive.” But he recalled “it took 75 years to pass Gramm-Leach-Bliley”. His committee, he said, will work “step-by-step, piece-by-piece” to make insurance competitive. Among the proposals the committee will consider is the IIAA’s own comprehensive plan.
OCC Preemption: He voiced “strong concerns” over recent actions by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency in West Virginia and in Massachusetts “to unilaterally preempt state insurance law”, something, he said, not within the intent of GLB. He said he’s working with Treasury “to change the OCC approach in the future”. He said regulators should recognize the spirit as well as the letter of GLB. If they “move in the wrong direction”, he warned, oversight hearings and corrective legislation may be indicated “to bring them back in line.”
Money Laundering: He described the U.S.A. Patriot Act as the “crowning achievement” of his committee, but said its provisions should not unfairly burden small agents, who are low risk for money laundering schemes. He vowed “to make sure it’s done right.”
Congressman Oxley addressed the group after accepting the IIAA’s Gerald Solomon Legislator of the Year award.
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