November Elections Brought Insurance Power Shift

By | January 21, 2011

The Republican takeover of the House of Representatives bodes well for the insurance industry, according to one leading Washington insurance lobbyist.

“I think it will be an environment that will be a little more balanced for the pro business viewpoint. We’ll have an opportunity, I think, to work closely with those committee members,” Leigh Ann Pusey, president and CEO of the American Insurance Association, told Insurance Journal in a recent video interview in which she outlines the committee changes that could affect federal insurance legislation.

Insurance lobbyist have some new committee members to deal with thanks to the November elections but the leadership slots are filled with familiar faces.

The Republican takeover of the House of Representatives means that the House Financial Services Committee with no longer be chaired by Rep. Barney Frank, D.-Mass., but will instead be headed by Rep. Spencer Bachus, R.-Ala. This key committee holds jurisdiction over the banking, securities, insurance, housing, and domestic and international monetary policy sectors. Bacchus is a familiar face to insurance lobbyists, having served as the ranking minority member on the committee.

The committee will also have 12 new Republican members.

Bachus has said his priority would be to “end the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which has been disastrous for taxpayers.”

He also announced that his committee’s first hearing of the new session, to be held on Jan. 26, will explore ways to promote economic activity and foster job creation.

“Our small businesses need certainty from Washington in order to expand and hire workers. If we are to enjoy a full economic recovery, new job creation must come from the private sector. Sustainable economic growth is our main objective, and this hearing is just the beginning of our work to ensure government is encouraging, not inhibiting, job creation and economic recovery,” Bachus said.

Bachus has chosen Rep. Judy Biggert, R, Ill. to serve as chairman of the key House Financial Services Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity that directly addresses many insurance issues. Biggert is also well-known by insurance interests. She helped author the legislation creating the new Federal Insurance Office.

According to Biggert, her subcommittee will tackle oversight of Dodd-Frank Act provisions that impact the insurance sector.

Democrats retained control of the Senate and thus control over committee chairs. However, due to the retirement of Sen. Christopher Dodd, D.- Conn., who chaired the Senate Banking Committee that deals with insurance matters, there is also a new chairman here. Sen. Tim Johnson, D.-S.D., is succeeding Dodd as head of this important panel. Sen. Richard Shelby, R.- Ala., remains the ranking minority member.

Pusey said Johnson is someone “who has been fair and open to the financial community’s arguments.” She said she thinks Johnson will do a good job chairing a committee that is seen as “a little less partisan” that in its counterpart in the House.

It is presently unclear which, if any, of newly-elected senators will be assigned to the banking committee to fill vacancies.

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