IIABA Optimistic on Legislative Agenda Following Mid-Term Election

November 8, 2002

The results of Tuesday’s historic mid-term election have buoyed the hopes of independent agents and brokers that several critical insurance and business concerns may cross the finish line in the new 108th Congress, according to Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (IIABA) CEO Robert Rusbuldt.

“The historic election of 2002 has resulted in a legislative body that we believe will take a more holistic and cohesive look at the legislative and regulatory concerns of business owners, employees and consumers across the nation,” Rusbuldt said. “Independent agents and brokers are cautiously optimistic that many of these insurance and business issues can be resolved in the new Congress and that progress will be made on numerous others.”

Tuesday’s results bucked the normal trend for mid-term elections. It marked only the third time in 102 years that the President’s party gained seats in a mid-term election. Republicans picked up at least five seats to further strengthen their majority in the House of Representatives and regained control of the Senate in Tuesday’s balloting.

“It is highly unusual for the President’s party to do so well in the mid-term election,” Rusbuldt remarked. “Obviously, the voters have taken notice of the work and leadership of President Bush over the last two years.”

From the agent and broker perspective, there are many pressing concerns that await the new Congress when it is seated the first week in January. One of the biggest is tax policy and whether the wide-reaching tax cut bill that was enacted in June 2001 will be made permanent.

“Agents and brokers strongly supported efforts in the current Congress to make permanent the tax cuts enacted through the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act, including its lower tax brackets and other pro-growth provisions,” Rusbuldt said. “We will once again work with lawmakers to make this goal a reality that will benefit millions of individuals and business owners.”

Rusbuldt believes tort reform issues, such as reform of medical malpractice, product liability laws and asbestos liability, will be placed higher on the congressional agenda when it begins its legislative work in January. The jury is still out on other issues, such as regulatory reform or privacy issues. He also notes that some of President Bush’s judicial nominees may now be confirmed, which most business groups consider a positive.

IIABA Senior Vice President of Federal Government Affairs Maria Berthoud said that even though Republicans control both chambers, compromise by the parties will be the key to legislative success in the new Congress. “The first compromise that needs to take place should occur in the lame-duck session beginning later this month. Congress needs to send the President the terrorism insurance bill.

“The new Congress could still see some gridlock because it takes 60 votes to end a filibuster in the Senate and Republicans currently have only 51 senators. And, there is a tight margin in the House. As such, compromise will be an essential ingredient in any major legislative undertaking in the 108th Congress,” Berthoud stressed. “The days of ramming a proposal through the legislative process, especially in the Senate, are gone. Congressional leaders on both sides of Capitol Hill will have to hone their negotiating skills to accomplish the people’s business over the next two years.

“IIABA is prepared to work with all members of Congress to address the issues that are important to all Americans, to business owners and to independent agents and brokers,” Berthoud added. “We want to make the 108th Congress the most productive federal legislature ever.”

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