An eerie silence has descended over the White House and the Treasury Department as the administration prepares to release a key report on the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, which expires Dec. 31.[@@]

The report by law must be in the hands of Congress by June 30.

The White House and the Treasury Department will give no hint as to what the report will say and when it will be released, although there is strong speculation it will be presented to Congress late this week.

Sensing a political advantage, Rep. Paul Kanjorski, D-Pa., a ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, last week castigated the White House for lack of attention to the bill and the House Republican leadership for inaction.

Kanjorski said there is nobody at the appointed level at Treasury to take the bill and marshal it through Congress.

Insurance industry officials have been battling for a year to have the current 3-year plus program extended for 2 years while a more permanent solution with lesser federal involvement is crafted.

These people say that if the report recommends a straightforward 2-year extension as proposed in a bill introduced several months ago by Sens. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, and Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., it will set off immediate action in the House, probably leading to hearings by mid-July in the House Financial Services Committee, as well as the introduction of legislation there by the time Congress leaves for its annual August recess.

An equally positive result will occur if the report recommends a 1-year extension while providing “contours” as to what the administration will accept as a long-term solution. “Anything that is nebulous is beneficial, setting off immediate action, at least in the House,” one lobbyist says. “Any combination of the above options is acceptable.”

If the report makes no recommendations as to what is acceptable to the administration, “there will be no extension,” the lobbyist says.