House passes terrorism insurance bill

The House voted to reauthorize the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) on Wednesday, sending the legislation to the Senate.

The measure passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 416-5, with one lawmaker voting present.

{mosads}Lawmakers failed to reauthorize the program during the last Congress, and it expired on Dec. 31, leading to uncertainty in the business community.

TRIA is a federal program created following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that allows the government to repay business costs after a catastrophic attack that exceeds $100 million in damage.

Multiple insurance industry sources said Senate leaders are working to have a vote on TRIA on Thursday, but the timing has yet to be locked down. Still, the measure should have enough votes to pass in the GOP-controlled upper chamber.

Some Democrats had taken issue with a provision that would change the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law so that nonfinancial institutions — called “end users” in industry terms — do not have to follow some of the same regulations as big banks.

“Democrats are hopeful that TRIA will be renewed, but the inclusion of the end user provision is certainly a short-term complication to that. It adds unnecessary uncertainty to the market,” one senior Democratic Senate aide said.

The House voted on a six-year reauthorization bill that would increase $100 million threshold to $200 million. House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) had pushed for the increased threshold in order to prevent, he argued, taxpayers from being at risk of bailing out businesses.

The legislation died in the last Congress because some Senate Democrats opposed the attached changes to Dodd-Frank. Republicans said that those riders would boost economic growth.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who retired at the end of last Congress, blocked the Senate from voting on TRIA because of his concerns with a separate rider unrelated to the Wall Street provision. He was against the creation of a national, nonprofit clearinghouse that would allow insurance agents to register and establish a national standard. He wanted states to be able to opt out of the program.

Senate Democratic leaders ultimately decided to adjourn for the year instead of running out the procedural clock on Coburn’s objections.

Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas), the new House bill’s sponsor, blasted the Senate for allowing the program to expire.

“For whatever reason, the previous Senate decided it was more important to go home a couple days earlier rather than reauthorize the TRIA program,” Neugebauer said.

Lawmakers pointed out that businesses are facing consequences seven days into the expiration of TRIA.

“Already, companies are having trouble getting terrorism insurance, and many companies that had terrorism insurance have now lost it because there were clauses written into their policies that said if TRIA is not there, they do not have the insurance coverage,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.).

Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) noted the consideration of the new TRIA bill coincided with the terrorist attack in Paris on Wednesday.

“We saw the attack in Paris today. We realize what can happen with a terrorist attack, how it could happen at any moment and why it’s essential this be reauthorized,” King said.

The White House criticized the riders but stopped short of issuing a veto threat on the legislation in the last Congress.

Tags Carolyn Maloney Pete King Randy Neugebauer Terrorism Risk Insurance Act
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