Senators are not saying much about what they will do if the House goes ahead with efforts to squeeze program-expanding provisions into a federal terrorism risk backstop bill.

The House Rules Committee agreed to let H.Res. 849, which provides for the consideration of the Senate amendment to H.R. 2761, the Terrorism Risk Insurance Revision and Extension Act of 2007, go to the House floor, and House leaders want to hold a vote next week.

The act that now authorizes the program, the Terrorism Risk Insurance Extension Act of 2005, is set to expire Dec. 31.

Congress may stay in session until Dec. 21, but it is dealing with a huge backlog of work on must-do issues.

Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, who is determining how the Senate is handling the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act extension issue has been reacting cautiously to talk about the House action.

A spokesman for Dodd could not get any comment from Dodd Thursday about the House decision to vote on a longer terrorism risk program extension bill.

One insurance industry observer says he believes Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., the most senior Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, “has gone as far as he will go on legislation he opposes in principle, and would not hesitate to go home for Christmas fully aware that the current backstop expires Dec. 31 and no one is in a position to extend it.”

A key player in the new House initiative is Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y., who represents a New York City district.

“The indication we have from [the Senate] is ‘take or leave it,’ but that’s not going to happen,” Ackerman said, according to an Ackerman spokesman. “We hope that this is sufficient and they accept it, but, realistically the clock is running.”

President Bush and many members of the Senate believe that the country should keep any federal terrorism risk protection program for insurers as small as possible.

Members of the Senate, facing a veto threat, have passed a short bill that excludes protection for group life insurers and other provisions of interest to insurers, and they have refused to hold a conference committee to iron out the differences between their bill and the longer, more expansive bill that the House originally passed.

The bill that the House will be considering next includes many of the Senate changes, such as the Senate’s 7-year lifespan for program authorization, rather than the 15-year authorization included in the original House bill, but it also includes protection for group life insurers; a reduction in the “trigger” for federal involvement to $50 million, from the Senate trigger level of $100 million; and a provision limiting life insurers’ ability to consider travel plans when considering coverage applications.

Because the revised House bill would add group life to the Senate limits on TRIA’s covered lines, it would create a separate $5 billion recoupment pool for group life. This apparently is a new wrinkle that would have the effect of reducing the cost of an attack on commercial insurance policyholders.