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 SchumerBarr to testify before House Judiciary panel Graham won't call Barr to testify over Roger Stone sentencing recommendation Roger Stone witness alleges Trump targeted prosecutors in 'vile smear job' MORE (D-N.Y.) said ahead of the vote. “If we were to not renew the terrorism insurance program, we will lose jobs.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Republican Sens. Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnOvernight Energy: Experts criticize changes to EPA lead, copper rule | House panel looks into plan to limit powers of EPA science advisers | Senate bill aims for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 Trump budget proposal funds financially struggling museum in Reagan's childhood home The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Worries grow about political violence as midterms approach MORE (Okla.), Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsKobach says he discussed his Senate bid with Trump Republicans expect Trump to withdraw controversial Fed nominee Celebrating and expanding upon five years of the ABLE  Act MORE (Kan.), Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsAlabama Senate contender hits Sessions in new ad: 'Hillary still ain't in jail' Barr back on the hot seat McCabe: 'I don't think I will ever be free of this president and his maniacal rage' MORE (Ala.) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioPeace Corps' sudden decision to leave China stirs blowback Lawmakers raise concerns over Russia's growing influence in Venezuela USDA takes heat as Democrats seek probe into trade aid 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 CrapoTrump pick for Fed seat takes bipartisan fire On The Money: Economy grows 2.3 percent in 2019, slowest year under Trump | How coronavirus could impact the US economy | Farm bankruptcies jump | Pelosi not ready to back UK trade deal Senators ask FDA to crack down on non-dairy milks, cheeses 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 FlakeMcSally launches 2020 campaign Sinema will vote to convict Trump Senate drama surrounding Trump trial starts to fizzle 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 VitterThe biggest political upsets of the decade Red-state governor races put both parties on edge Louisiana Republicans score big legislative wins 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) TesterDemocratic senator: 'The ultimate of ironies' for Trump to hit Romney for invoking his faith Committee on Veterans Affairs sends important message during tense Senate time Democrats cry foul over Schiff backlash 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.