- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 16, 2002

Senate Democrats said yesterday they would try to strip what they called Republican special-interest provisions from the homeland security bill, a move Republicans said might kill the measure already passed by the House and advocated relentlessly by the White House.
"If this is a homeland security bill, let's keep it homeland-security related and let's take out all this terrible special-interest legislation that has nothing to do with homeland security," said outgoing Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat.
But Republicans denied their provisions were unrelated to homeland security. They also said if Senate Democrats succeeded in their changes, the Republican-controlled House then would have to vote again and the House left for the year early yesterday morning.
Also, if the homeland security bill fails, it will take longer to get a final vote on a terrorism insurance provision, said Sen. Phil Gramm, Texas Republican.
"I just think it's a risk we shouldn't take," he said.
The fight is over an amendment offered by Mr. Daschle and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, that would strip seven provisions from the legislation approved by the House on Wednesday that would create a new Homeland Security Department.
"In the dead of night with no one watching, after we thought we'd made the compromise, a few things were snuck into the bill," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat.
Included is language that would create at least one new university-based homeland security research center at a major university Democrats say it was intended for Texas A&M; University, a favorite of Mr. Gramm's and incoming House Majority Leader Tom Delay, Texas Republican. Republicans say it could go to any number of universities including Texas A&M.;
Also, Democrats say there is language in the bill that would protect pharmaceutical companies from lawsuits over the vaccines they create and their side effects, including wiping out lawsuits already in court.
The provision "provides liability protection for pharmaceutical companies that actually make mercury-based vaccine preservatives that actually have caused autism in children. It wipes out all of the litigation," Mr. Daschle said. "I can't understand why we would put a provision in there relating to that kind of liability protection."
Republicans deny that the provision would wipe out current lawsuits, and say future liability protection is needed to ensure that pharmaceutical companies will produce the vaccines that America needs to fight the war on terrorism.
"Why would [companies] stand out totally exposed for making a medicine that is lifesaving but one that, with one lawsuit, can wipe out their whole development process, their whole manufacturing process today?" said Sen. Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, the Senate's only doctor.
After the Senate finishes with the homeland security bill on Monday, it will move on to the terrorism insurance legislation passed by the House.
Under that bill, the government would cover up to $90 billion annually in insurance claims from any future terrorist attacks for the next three years. The government would cover up to 90 percent of insured losses from major attacks, with the insurance industry covering up to the first $15 billion in annual claims.
The measure does not cover last year's terrorist attacks, which generated an estimated $40 billion in claims that insurers had to cover.

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