Business Group Supports Specter's Asbestos Draft; Insurers and Some Unions Demand Changes
Large businesses facing asbestos lawsuits said yesterday they favor the latest draft of asbestos legislation crafted by Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.). "We believe it brings us closer to a long-overdue resolution," the Asbestos Study Group wrote in a letter to Specter. Specter’s draft has the support of Judiciary ranking member Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). It also has the support of the National Association of Manufacturers, several veterans' groups and the United Auto Workers.
But the AFL-CIO opposes the draft, saying it does not fairly compensate asbestos victims. An analysis of the bill by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) says the proposed $140 billion trust fund used to compensate asbestos victims is inadequate. In a study released today, EWG faulted the bill's provisions on pending asbestos cases, saying "many hundreds" of those with a fatal asbestos-caused cancer would die waiting for compensation.
Separately, Reuters reported today that U.S. insurers said they will not be able to support a $140 billion asbestos compensation fund without substantial modifications, according to a letter released today. The letter said this was a "unified insurance industry position" and was signed by the American Insurance Association, the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies and the Reinsurance Association of America.
President Expected to Sign Bankruptcy Bill This Week
President Bush issued the following statement commending Congress for passing the bankruptcy bill: “I commend the House for acting in bipartisan fashion to curb abuses of the bankruptcy system. These common-sense reforms will make the system stronger and better so that more Americans -- especially lower-income Americans -- have greater access to credit. I look forward to signing the bill into law.” The president’s action could come tomorrow.
House Committee to Consider Predatory Lending Bill
The House Financial Services Committee might begin hearings next month on a bipartisan bill to curb predatory lending in the subprime mortgage market, its chief sponsor said today, CongressDaily reported. "I really expect the bill to have a chance to move through the [legislative] process," Financial Services Housing Subcommittee Chairman Bob Ney (R-Ohio) said during a Mortgage Bankers Association conference. But Ney said the lawmakers' "door is open" to mortgage lenders and other stakeholders seeking to modify provisions. Ney's bill would create uniform national standards that would pre-empt state predatory lending laws.
Rainbow/PUSH Coalition President Jesse Jackson and other critics of the Ney bill are supporting a competing measure offered by Reps. Brad Miller (D-N.C.) and Melvin Watt (D-N.C.) and House Financial Services ranking member Barney Frank
(D-Mass.). That bill would create a national standard modeled on North Carolina's anti-predatory lending statute, but it would allow states to enact stronger predatory lending laws.