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Industry Fights DeLay Over Group Life Protection

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The House may be giving up on efforts to move tonight to pass a stripped-down version of legislation that would extend the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act.[@@]

Insurance industry supporters have been trying to get the bill on the “suspension calendar,” an expedited process for reviewing legislation, but sources said they believe the bill has been pulled from the suspension calendar.

The bill still could come up during the lame-duck session scheduled for mid-November, the sources said.

One issue holding up passage of the bill has been a demand by Democrats that the extension be increased to 2 years, the period included in a TRIA bill reported out by the House Financial Services Committee Sept. 29.

The insurance industry and its supporters in the House worked hard during the day Friday to change the House TRIA bill. The bill as approved by the House Republican leadership, including House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, would have extended the existing TRIA program for 6 months, to June 30, 2006; deleted a provision adding group life; and raised the retention rate for insurers to 17.5%, from the retention rate of 15% included in the bill reported out by the House Financial Services Committee.

But strong lobbying by the industry and its supporters in the House persuaded the House leadership to retain the 15% retention rate for the industry for the 6-month extension and to put group life back into the bill.

David Winston, senior vice president, federal affairs, at the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, Indianapolis, said at press time that his trade group was conducting a grassroots campaign that seeks to win the support of House Democrats for the bill.

There was also an effort under way to get the bill attached to a continuing resolution needed to keep the government running until it returns after the election to complete its work, but it was unclear at press time whether that effort would be successful.

That provision would include group life in the products covered by the bill, according to officials from several lobbying groups.

Legislation extending TRIA through 2007 passed the House Financial Services Committee overwhelmingly Sept. 29. The bill also retained 2005′s retention rate of 15% for 2006. The bill would have increased the retention rate to 20% for 2007.

The legislation also included group life insurance for the first time.

However, DeLay balked, concerned about the idea of the federal government’s adding another unfunded liability to its books. Regional interests may also have been an issue, because most of the cost the government has borne so far for terrorism activities is in urban areas, while DeLay represents a non-urban area near Houston.

Reps. Mike Oxley, R-Ohio, chairman of the Financial Services panel, Richard Baker, R-La., chairman of the committee’s Capital Markets Subcommittee, and Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., chairman of the panel’s Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee, have worked since Tuesday to persuade the House leadership to deal with the bill before recessing for election campaigning Friday night.

And, even if the bill passes in a stripped-down form, it is unclear whether Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., will approve of the Senate dealing with the issue in a lame-duck session in November. That’s because, even though the extension has overwhelming support in the Senate, Shelby has insisted that Congress delay action on it until a report by the Treasury Department dealing with the need for the legislation is completed. The Treasury analysis is not expected to be completed until June 2006. However, the legislation that will be considered by the House today mandates that that study be completed by April 2006.


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