White House Repeats Threat to Veto House Terrorism Insurance Bill

December 12, 2007

The Bush Administration has reasserted its opposition to a House bill that would extend the federal terrorism insurance program after it expires on Dec. 31, vowing to veto any final measure that differs measurably from the Senate bill.

“The Administration strongly opposes any amendments that move the Senate-passed version of the bill away from the Administration’s key elements. Accordingly, if H.R. 2761 were presented to the President in the form to be considered by the House, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill,” the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement.

The veto threat came as House leaders were negotiating with Senate leaders on a compromise TRIA bill.

The current federal terrorism reinsurance program, commonly known as the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA), is scheduled to expire at the end of the year. Senate leaders, including Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., chair of the Senate Banking Committee, have agreed on a bill to renew TRIA, although this measure lacks some of the provisions the House of Representatives wants. Also, the Senate version would renew TRIA for seven years or until 2014, compared to 15 years in the House version.

Both bills would eliminate the distinction between domestic and foreign terrorism.

However, the Senate version does not contain other features that the House wants, including a provision mandating that insurers make available coverage for nuclear, biological, chemical and radiological (NBCR) attacks.

The Senate version also does not incorporate group life insurance or the lower retentions and deductibles the House supported. The Senate wants the government program to trigger after $100 million in losses, whereas the House sets the trigger at $50 million.

Dodd worked out the Senate version with Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., the ranking Republican on the committee who has in the past opposed TRIA.

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., who chairs the House Financial Services Committee that produced the House bill, has said if the Senate avoids compromise and takes a “take it or leave it” attitude on the bill, he will counter with legislation to extend the current program for 120 days and deal with the bills’ differences next year.

Frank stressed his support for the group life and other provisions of the House TRIA bill, although he suggested he would be open to a compromise to extend it for only 10 rather than 15 years..

The Bush Administration has said that it believes that TRIA should be phased out in favor of a private market for terrorism insurance and has set forth three key elements for an acceptable extension of TRIA: the program should be temporary and short-term; there should be no expansion of the program; and private sector retentions should be increased.

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