Sen. Dodd Says Terrorism Insurance Should Pass by the End of April

WASHINGTON – Though other Capital insiders are less optimistic, Sen. Christopher Dodd thinks impediments to passage of a government-backed terrorism insurance measure can be negotiated away in a hurry.

“I think, I believe we can do this in two weeks,” Dodd confidently proclaimed to the annual Legislative Conference of the Independent Insurance Agents of America.

The Connecticut Democrat also told the conference he couldn’t guarantee that an optional federal charter program won’t eventually pass into law, though it won’t be in this Congress and perhaps not the next. In any event, he said, “we’re going to proceed very, very carefully”, to avoid serious unintended consequences as a result of precipitous action. He added that the concerns of the Big I will be “paramount”.

The terrorism bill, which was put together by Senators Dodd, Paul Sarbanes of Maryland and Phil Gramm of Texas, ran into early stumbling blocks, first because of the complexity of the subject matter, then because of issues raised by the trial bar.

“I’m fully prepared to support tort reform,” he said of the lawyers contentions, “but I don’t believe that bill—which may wind up being a two or three year bill—ought to be a vehicle for tort reform, if it’s going to mean we don’t get terrorism insurance signed.”

To a third argument against passage, the “bailout” issue, the senator answers, “This is not about the insurance industry. This is about the insurance consumers, the people who use the product. The industry is not going to die, in my view. It’s the consumer who’s going to wind up paying the price.”

Dodd noted that the economic downturn may be easing, but that “there are some warning signs” in areas like real estate and aviation, where terrorism insurance is a key issue.

“We have a lot of work to make our nation more secure,” said Dodd. “One of the things we can do right off the bat, no matter how difficult it may be for some members to understand it, is to get behind a terrorist insurance bill, to pass it in the United States Senate, to resolve the differences with the House and then send the bill down to the President and get his signature on it, and do it in the month of April.”

Sen. Dodd is chairman of the Rules Committee and a member of the Banking Committee and, according to IIAA’s senior vice president for federal government affairs, “the man in the Senate for the insurance industry”.

The Dodd name is being persistently floated as a Democratic contender for the Presidency. If he should win, Berthoud said, the insurance industry would have its first technically proficient person in the White House.