- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 20, 2002

The Senate last night passed a bill that would have the government pay up to $90 billion a year for insurance claims arising out of any future terrorist attacks.
As Congress neared adjournment for the year, the Senate sent President Bush a bill making the government the insurer of last resort for terrorist attacks, with a maximum annual tab to taxpayers of $90 billion. The vote was 86-11.
Mr. Bush urged Congress to pass a terrorism-insurance bill since shortly after the September 11 attacks, saying the inability of companies to get affordable insurance for large construction projects is costing the economy thousands of jobs.
The House passed a bill a year ago but was unable to come to terms with the Senate on a formula for government protections. Democrats also resisted Republican efforts to ban punitive-damage awards in civil lawsuits related to terrorist attacks.
Mr. Bush personally stepped in after the election, contacting House Republican leaders and insisting that Congress complete the bill in the lame-duck session before adjourning for the year.
The president bowed to Democratic demands for no limits on punitive damages, which many Republicans consider a boon to trial lawyers usually allied with Democrats. But Republican leaders vowed to revisit the issue next year, when they will again enjoy majorities in the House and Senate.
The House approved the compromise on a voice vote last week, and the Senate was ready to follow suit, following passage of the president's other top priority for the lame-duck session, creation of a Homeland Security Department.
The government wouldn't step in on any claims less than $5 million. Insurance companies would pay a deductible in 2003 equal to 7 percent of the premiums they received the previous year. The deductible would rise to 10 percent in 2004 and 15 percent in 2005. The federal government would then cover 90 percent of everything above the deductible.

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