There is still a chance that Congress could take on President Bush and put group life back into a bill extending the federal terrorism risk insurance program.
Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, says the House will vote to extend the current Terrorism Risk Insurance Act until April 30, 2008, rather than accept a narrow terror program bill passed by the Senate.
The current version of TRIA will expire Dec. 31.
Frank talked about TRIA extension efforts in Boston, at the annual meeting of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, Des Plaines, Ill.
The Bush administration has argued that the TRIA program should be as short-lived and as limited in scope as possible, to patch up insurance markets that cannot function at all without government help.
Insurers say that some markets that appear on the surface to be functioning well, such as the group life market, also need TRIA protection.
The House has passed a broad TRIA bill that would include protection for group life insurers and a variety of other provisions, such as a reduction in benefit triggers and protection against attacks involving weapons of mass destruction.
The Senate has passed a much shorter bill that would hold the scope of the terror protection program to current levels.
Senate leaders say the narrow bill is the best they can hope to get implemented, under the circumstances: Bush has threatened to veto the House bill and indicated he would sign the kind of narrow bill the Senate has passed.
“My concern is that the Senate will pass a bill that is better than nothing right at the end of the year, and then say the House must take it or leave it, even if we believe it is inadequate,” Frank said. “I will not be subjected to this kind of tactic.”
Frank added that he very much wants coverage for group life insurance included in the final TRIA program bill.
“Terrorism coverage without group life is like the neutron bomb,” Frank said. “It protects the property but not the people in it. I am not comfortable with that.”
Information from Sam Friedman was added to this report.