- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 8, 2015

It took just two days for the new Senate to leave former Sen. Tom Coburn’s legacy behind, quickly passing a terrorism insurance bill that the Oklahoma Republican had single-handedly blocked late last year.

The bill renewed the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, which expired at the end of last year after Mr. Coburn launched a one-man opposition effort, objecting to one specific part of the measure that creates a national registry for insurance agents.

It passed the Senate on a 93-4 vote, after clearing the House a day earlier 416-5, making it the first piece of legislation to clear in the new Congress. President Obama is expected to sign it.

“TRIA has become essential to job creating construction projects across the country. With the renewal of TRIA, we can be assured that development projects can move forward,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, a New York Democrat who helped forge the compromise, fighting off efforts from both the right and left.

Senators were conscious of the absence of Mr. Coburn, who retired at the end of the last Congress, cutting his second term short by two years as he battles cancer.

In his final weeks in office last month, in addition to stopping the terrorism bill, Mr. Coburn single-handedly blocked an energy conservation bill and halted another measure supporters said was designed to stop veterans’ suicides, but which he said only duplicated existing VA programs at a cost of millions of taxpayer dollars.

With him gone, his former GOP colleagues, who now control both chambers, moved quickly on the terrorism legislation, which sets the federal government up as a financial backstop for companies that insure against a terrorist attack. Backers say major projects could stall without the aide.

Sen. Harry Reid, who was majority leader of the chamber last year when Democrats had control and who battled Mr. Coburn, issued a triumphant statement Thursday after the Senate passed the bill. He blamed “one Republican senator’s unnecessary hold” last year for imposing economic uncertainty on the economy.

“I am glad that with today’s renewal of TRIA cities like Las Vegas will now be able to expand their economies and build with confidence,” said Mr. Reid, who had to miss Thursday’s vote because he is still homebound, recovering from an exercising accident that left him with a concussion, broken ribs and broken bones in his face.

Critics argue that the terrorism insurance program should lapse, saying it doesn’t make sense to put taxpayers on the hook for private projects. They also predicted that if a terrorist attack did occur, Congress would step in with assistance after the fact anyway.

The terrorism bill violated budget rules, and any senator could have demanded a budget-busting vote, but none of them did.

“Within hours of being sworn in, the new Republican Congress rang up billions of dollars in new mandatory spending by rubber stamping this bill,” said one former Coburn aide. “Not a single conservative senator offered an amendment, raised a budget point of order, or used any other available procedural tool to stand up for taxpayers.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat, led a push to amend the bill to try to strip out provisions that exempt farmers and some other businesses from a collateral requirement in the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, passed in the wake of the 2008 Wall Street collapse. Ms. Warren only mustered 30 fellow members of the Democratic caucus for her effort.

She ended up voting against the final bill, as did Sen. Maria Cantwell, Washington Democrat, Sen. Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent, and Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican.

Brooke Sammon, Mr. Rubio’s spokeswoman, said the senator believed the program “has become just another big corporate welfare handout.”

“Senator Rubio had hoped that more would be done to reform this program and allow the private market to evolve,” she said.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide