Biz groups reel after terrorism collapse

A business community reeling from Congress’s failure to reauthorize a federal terrorism insurance program is urging lawmakers to take it up early next year.

The Terrorism Risk Insurance Act has provided a federal backstop for businesses impacted by massive terrorist attacks since it was installed after the September 11, 2001 attacks, but will now expire at the end of the year.

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That’s a problem for businesses around the country with contracts requiring the insurance on their properties.

“We're at a point where we have to get this done early in the new Congress — as early as possible,” said one financial services lobbyist. “It should have never gotten to this point.”

Business groups are frustrated a reauthorization died despite bipartisan support for the bill.

A fight over unrelated provisions related to the Wall Street reform law led to the bill’s death on the Senate floor.

The Senate could have stayed in Washington longer to try to move a House-version of the bill, but did not. The House bill included a late change to the Wall Street bill advocated by House Financial Services Chairman Jeb HensarlingThomas (Jeb) Jeb HensarlingLawmakers battle over future of Ex-Im Bank House passes Ex-Im Bank reboot bill opposed by White House, McConnell Has Congress lost the ability or the will to pass a unanimous bipartisan small business bill? MORE (R-Texas).

Separately, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who was seeking different changes to the bill, objected to changes in the Senate process that could have led to a final vote on the measure on Tuesday night.

“We've been hearing from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for two years that there's no way TRIA doesn't get reauthorized,” the lobbyist said. “And then they just left. What do you mean they just left?”

TRIA supporters formed a broad coalition to lobby for the bill that included as members the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Financial Services Roundtable, along with the major league sporting leagues and tourism groups.

The NFL is among the groups that uses the insurance program. Its Super Bowl is expected to go on, though there have been warnings about a cancelation due to the lapse.

The current program allows the government to recoup costs after terrorist attacks exceeding $100 million in damage. The House version would increase that threshold to $200 million.

The lack of a new bill poses a regulatory headache for businesses who own properties where landlords and banking officials require them to own terror insurance.

“Unconscionable,” was how Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) CEO David A. Sampson put it. 

“If a massive attack occurs before TRIA is reauthorized, there could be no terrorism insurance coverage or taxpayer protection,” Sampson said in a statement. “[We're] profoundly disappointed by the dysfunction in Washington.”

He called for the next Congress to reauthorized TRIA “immediately” when it returns.

David H. Steven, CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association, called on lawmakers to make TRIA reauthorization an “immediate legislative priority” in early 2015.

U.S. Travel Association CEO Roger Dow said in a statement that lawmakers “should act immediately [...next year] to renew this critical backstop.”

“Prior to TRIA's enactment in 2002, America lost an estimated 300,000 jobs after 9/11,” Dow said. “The effects cascaded for years.”

The partisan bickering continued on Wednesday. Sen. Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSchumer mourns death of 'amazing' father Feehery: The honest contrarian Biden administration to release oil from strategic reserve: reports MORE (D-N.Y.) in a statement said the outcome was “as foreseeable as it was avoidable.”

“It could have been easily averted if the House passed the Senate's bill that earned the support of senators ranging for Bernie Sanders to Ted Cruz,” he argued.

In a blog post, Hensarling's House Financial Services Committee staff shot back: “The bottom line: The House passed a bipartisan TRIA reauthorization bill 417-7,” they wrote. “The Senate’s response? Quit working, leave town, and kill TRIA.”

The lobbyist said both sides are to blame.

“Nobody cares right now whose fault it is,” the lobbyist said. “They need to fix this. And Schumer — the third highest ranking Democrat in the Senate — is returning home to New York without having reauthorized TRIA.”