As the Senate appeared poised at press time to act on its own version of legislation extending the federal backstop on terrorism insurance, the ability of the life insurance industry to have group life included in the program appears to be fading.
Life insurance industry lobbyists conceded that the Senate bill–which does not expand the current program–is likely to be the template for final action.
This will be the case whether full Senate action takes place before Congress left for its Thanksgiving recess on Nov. 16, or even if final Senate action doesn’t occur until Congress returns on Dec. 3, sources said.
Jack Dolan, a spokesman for the American Council of Life Insurers, said the industry is still working. “We are still making the case that group life should be included in TRIA,” Dolan said. “There is strong support for group life in the House and some senators also agree that TRIA should cover life in addition to bricks and mortar.”
He said the life insurance industry is focusing on a conference strategy. “It will be tough but we are hoping for the best,” he said. “Those who follow the group life market recognize the importance of including group life in TRIA,” Dolan said.
“For many workers, the only life insurance protection they have is group life. We will continue making our case that group life is important to the financial security of millions of workers,” he added.
But several other industry lobbyists conceded that the outlook is dim. “The White House opposes inclusion of group life, and while Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, supports us, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., the ranking minority member of the Committee, has made clear he opposes increasing what the bill covers, the lobbyist for one insurer said.
Moreover, a lobbyist for a property-casualty insurance trade group, said the p-c industry and policyholders, two key constituencies, want the issue resolved this year. The p-c industry is “hesitant” about the demand of Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, that the current program be extended until April 30, 2008, so that more of the House bill can be included.
The current extension of the legislation, the Terrorism Risk Insurance Extension Act of 2005, expires on Dec. 31.
The Senate Banking Committee leadership failed in its effort Nov. 13 to win unanimous consent for taking up the Senate bill on an expedited basis. That raised the specter that final action might be delayed until December.
But an industry lobbyist who asked not to be named cautioned that despite the fact at least one senator signaled through a so-called “hotlining” procedure that he has concerns with the bill, there is always the possibility the Democratic Senate leadership could still decide to put the bill on the floor by Nov. 16.