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House Passes Terrorism Insurance Bill (Corrected)

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Members of the House today voted 303-116 to pass a terrorism risk insurance bill that is somewhat different from the Senate version and includes a group life provision.

The number of the bill, which would establish the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Authorization Act of 2007, was changed to H.R. 4299. The previous number of the bill was H.R. 2761.

The bill now authorizing the terrorism risk insurance program is set to expire Dec. 31.

White House officials say President Bush will veto any bill that is broader than the stripped-down Senate version of the bill, which excludes protection for group life insurers.

House members today reacted to new White House veto warnings by amending their terrorism risk program bill to add the group life protection.

House members also added a provision that would limit life insurers’ ability to use applicants’ travel information in underwriting decisions.

All but 3 Democrats voted for H.R. 4299, and 78 Republicans also voted for the bill.

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chairman of the House Financial Services Committee and the original sponsor of the House terrorism risk insurance program bill, acknowledged the Senate’s strong position.

If the Senate rejects the House language, “we’ll have to acquiesce,” Frank said on the House floor.

Frank also talked about the change in the number of the House version of the bill.

“Originally, we thought about taking the bill the Senate has passed, amending it and sending it back,” Frank said. “I then heard that the Senate might be so unable to function that [an amended TRIA extension] wouldn’t get through” before Congress departed for the year.

By changing the bill number and adding back House elements the Senate has deleted, “we are saying to the Senate [that we are] not ready to…roll over and play dead,” Frank said. “I am unwilling at this point to let [debate] end without giving the Senate some chance to reconsider aspects” of the House bill.

Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, spoke for opponents of the amended House version of the bill.

“I encourage all of my colleagues to reject this exercise in legislative futility so that the Rules Committee can instead bring to the House floor a rule that would provide for consideration of the Senate compromise bill that the House has already received,” Sessions said.

“Passing a bill that has already been pronounced ‘dead on arrival’ in the Senate foolishly puts the reauthorization of this important program in jeopardy as its expiration at the end of this year draws closer,” Sessions said.

The American Council of Life Insurers, Washington, praised Frank and others, such as Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y., for their support for putting group life protection back in the terrorism risk protection bill.

“Including group life in TRIA would help assure that this vital source of insurance protection–which is often the only type of life insurance that rank-and-file employees have–remains widely available after a catastrophic attack,” ACLI spokesman Steve Brostoff said.

“We understand that this has been a difficult battle in the face of a veto threat from the administration,” Brostoff said.

CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, the vote total was described incorrectly in the original version of this article.