Senate votes to renew terrorism insurance

The Senate voted 93-4 Thursday to extend a terrorism insurance program that business groups say provides a critical backstop in the event of a catastrophic attack.

The bill would extend the program, which was created in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, for seven years.

“Our economy is greatly affected by [the program],” Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerAmtrak to rename Rochester station after Louise Slaughter Conscience protections for health-care providers should be standard Pension committee must deliver on retirement promise MORE (D-N.Y.) said ahead of the vote. “If we were to not renew the terrorism insurance program, we will lose jobs.”

Republican Sens. Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnPaul Ryan should realize that federal earmarks are the currency of cronyism Republicans in Congress shouldn't try to bring back earmarks Republicans should know reviving earmarks is a political nightmare MORE (Okla.), Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsGOP pushes to change Senate rules for Trump Rural America hopes Trump hasn't forgotten his promise Republicans slam Trump's tariffs plan MORE (Kan.), Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsFeinstein, Harris call for probe of ICE after employee resigns House Judiciary chair subpoenas DOJ for FBI documents Sen. Gardner won’t let Jeff Sessions tread on Colorado’s cannabis boom MORE (Ala.) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioTrump replaces McMaster with Bolton as national security adviser Orlando March for Our Lives protesters to march to Rubio's downtown office, Pulse nightclub Lawmakers eye crackdown on China’s Confucius Institutes MORE (Fla.) voted against the bill.

The fight over the terrorism insurance now shifts to the House, where Republicans are divided over whether the program should be changed to shift more of the financial risk to insurers.

The Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) will expire at the end of the year unless Congress acts.

Renewal of the program is of particular importance for New York, where insurance costs skyrocketed for skyscrapers after 9/11, and other major cities with tourist attractions and stadiums that could be terrorist targets.

“I remember the dark days right after 9/11,” Schumer said. “The uncertainty that we faced in the immediate aftermath was that there would be no rebuilding.”

Supporters of the program say it provides certainty for cities to invest and build in high-risk projects, and argue the market for insurance would freeze up without it because terrorist threats are so difficult predict.

Critics question those claims and say the private market should be able to handle insuring against terrorism threats without government support.

In the House, Republicans are struggling to rally support around a five-year extension of the program passed by the House Financial Services Committee in June. That bill advanced on a partisan vote, and Democrats criticized several changes House Republicans wanted to make to the program.

Specifically, Democrats criticized the House bill for drawing a distinction between nuclear, biological, chemical or radiological attacks and other forms of terrorism. The latter attacks would face a higher threshold of damage before government support kicks in — damages would have to exceed $500 million in those attacks, as opposed to $100 million for more extreme events.

Major business groups have mounted a strong push to get TRIA extended with as few changes as possible, and Democrats, and some Republicans friendly to business or in high-profile areas, have pushed for a clean bill.

The Senate bill makes a few minor changes to the program. Currently, the federal government covers 85 percent of insurers’ losses, but the new version would increase the insurers' co-pay to 20 percent, phased in over five years.

The Senate version also increases the mandatory recoupment threshold from $27.5 billion to $37.5 billion, meaning if an insurers’ losses are less than $37.5 billion, the government is required to recoup its payments.

Sen. Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoPower struggle threatens to sink bank legislation Overnight Regulation: FDA rule to limit nicotine in cigarettes moves forward | Court tosses Obama financial adviser rule | House GOP threatens to hold up Senate Dodd-Frank rollback Overnight Finance: House threatens to freeze Senate Dodd-Frank rollback | New Russia sanctions | Trump vs. Trudeau on trade | Court tosses Obama financial adviser rule MORE (R-Idaho), a lead sponsor of the bill, said the legislation strikes a balance between federal and private sector investments in order to protect taxpayer dollars.

The Senate considered four amendments to the bill before final passage:

• Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeOvernight Health Care: House passes .3T omnibus | Bill boosts funds for NIH, opioid treatment | Senators spar over ObamaCare fix | 'Right to Try' bill heads to the Senate The Hill's 12:30 Report Booker admits defeat in Capitol snowball fight with Flake MORE’s (R-Ariz.) amendment establishes an Advisory Committee on Risk-Sharing Mechanisms to reduce dependency on the federal government and get more private capital investments. That amendment passed on a 97-0 vote.

• Sen. David VitterDavid Bruce VitterTrump nominates wife of ex-Louisiana senator to be federal judge Where is due process in all the sexual harassment allegations? Not the Senate's job to second-guess Alabama voters MORE’s (R-La.) amendment requires the Federal Reserve Board of Governors to have a member that has previous experience in community banking. His amendment passed by voice vote.

• Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) Tester2020 Dems compete for top campaign operatives Senate GOP: We will grow our majority in midterms Senate passes bipartisan bill to roll back Dodd-Frank MORE’s (D-Mont.) amendment creates a National Association of Registered Agents and Brokers to issue licenses to allow brokers to operate outside the state they are registered. He said it would streamline the system by creating a national standard. It passed by voice-vote.

• Sen. Tom Coburn’s (R-Okla.) amendment would allow the Treasury secretary to extend the deadline up to 10 years for recouping loss premiums if they total more than $1 billion. Schumer said the amendment violated the pay-go rule and greatly increased the cost of the bill. Schumer raised a budget point of order on the amendment and Coburn failed to get the 60 votes needed to waive the budget point of order.

 — This story was last updated at 1:46 p.m.