The House gives in to the Senate and the administration

Washington

Group life insurance will not be included in an extension of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act.

As House and Senate negotiators worked at press time to craft a bill extending the program for two years, it became clear that because of Senate and White House opposition, group life would not be added.

House negotiators agreed to drop group life as a covered line in a document they sent to the Senate on Dec. 13. Adding group life was included in a TRIA extension bill passed Dec. 7 by the House in a 371-49 vote but was not included in the Senate bill.

As negotiators toiled, it became clear that the narrower Senate version would dominate the final bill.

Negotiators were working against the background of congressional efforts to complete its work for the year by the weekend and the fact that, unless extended, TRIA sunsets Dec. 31.

The omission constituted a victory for the White House, which since June has made it clear it opposed adding group life to TRIA, saying it would only support an extension of TRIA if it was narrower than the current version and got the government out of the terrorism insurance business completely at the end of its two-year life.

The House proposal to the Senate also concedes elimination of a provision that bars discrimination in life insurance policies based on a person’s plans for foreign travel.

The life insurance industry opposed the provision. It had lobbied intensely against it during drafting of the bill and again when it was on the House floor.

Aware that group life again appeared to be in trouble, the industry labored until the last minute to breathe life into the provision.

By the evening of Dec. 13, it had won the support of at least six senators to a letter asking TRIA extension negotiators to “include group life insurance as a covered line in the…program.”

But a spokesman for Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., one of the those who agreed to sign the letter, said he had not agreed to put a hold on the bill–effectively killing it–if group life is not included as a covered item in a final bill. Other senators who signed on to the letter were unavailable for comment.

A document prepared by the staff of the House Financial Services Committee for Senate negotiators as the opening gambit in TRIA extension talks in effect conceded to the bulk of the Senate bill.

The document identified 25 issues where the House and Senate bills diverged. Of these, the document specified, the House was conceding to the Senate on 20 of them, asking the Senate to accede to the House on two provisions, and proposed compromise language on three others.