Bill Extending Federal Terrorism Insurance Program Passed By House

Wednesday, September 19th 2007, 3:54 pm
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The House on Wednesday passed a 15-year extension of a program to aid the insurance industry in the event of a terrorist attack.

The measure, passed 312-110, is aimed at ensuring that developers can get insurance against losses from potential attacks. The insurance is a condition to obtaining financing for building projects such as the one to replace the World Trade Center, leveled in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The terrorism risk insurance program was enacted after the terrorist strikes, when reinsurers announced they no longer would cover losses from such attacks. Reinsurers provide insurance that allows insurers to defray the risk of a catastrophic loss.

In 2002, Congress enacted the program, capped at $100 billion, to guarantee that insurers would stay in the market. The aim was to create a temporary program that would give the marketplace time to adapt.

But the private market for terrorism insurance has not rebounded and the program was extended in 2005. It expires at year's end unless Congress acts.

The White House on Monday promised a veto. The Bush administration and some lawmakers say that extending the program effectively would closes off the opportunity for the private insurance market to develop.

``I thought that the market needed some time to develop,'' said Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas. ``But let's face it, if we vote for this, we are voting for a permanent, a de facto permanent, huge government insurance program.''

But Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said businesses in New York are still having troubles getting insurance and that many policies are written on the condition that the law, known as TRIA, is extended.

The legislation is backed by a coalition of business interests, including real estate developers and investors, bankers, insurance companies and even the National Football League.

``A very important part of our homeland security is our economic security,'' Maloney said. ``TRIA not only helped the rebuilding of New York City, it created jobs and helped America's economy grow despite the continuing terrorist threats.''

The Congressional Budget Office estimates the bill would cost $3.4 billion over the next five years, but acknowledged there is no way to reliably estimate possible damages or the likelihood of a terrorist attacks. Because there have been no attacks since 2001, the program has not made any payments.

The Senate has yet to act on similar legislation.