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Terrorism Risk Insurance Revision Act of 2005

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Location: Washington, DC


TERRORISM RISK INSURANCE REVISION ACT OF 2005 -- (House of Representatives - December 07, 2005)

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Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Mr. Speaker, the ranking member of the subcommittee, the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Kanjorski), is on his way over. He has taken the lead for us on this bill.

I would just ask at this point unanimous consent for me to turn over to him the management of our time when he arrives.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Massachusetts?

There was no objection.

Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Mr. Speaker, this is a bill to which my response is, ``Better late than never.'' I wish we would have done this earlier. We have known for some time the deadline was coming. I appreciate the efforts of the chairman of the committee to get the attention of the House to this bill. We passed it in committee some time ago before the break. It frankly could have come to the floor before that.

I say that because I am pleased with this bill in general. I think it is useful that we are producing it. And there are differences between this bill and the one passed by the Senate, and we do need some time to work them out.

None of them is of enormous difficulty, it seems to me, they all have a similar capacity, but it would have been better if we had done this earlier.

Having said that, I want to stress what is so important about this bill to me, and it is it establishes or maintains the principle that we will try to minimize the extent to which terrorists influence decisions that we make here in America. I do not regard this as a favor to the insurance companies. Frankly, terrorism insurance would, I believe, not exist if it were not for this bill or, if it did exist, it would be at very high premiums. The insurance industry would have the option either of walking away from offering this or of charging high premiums. I do not think the insurance industry would be greatly disadvantaged.

The losers, if we do not reenact terrorism risk insurance, are people who want to build and particularly in those cities that are seen as potential targets of terrorism. We have been told by people who want to do large commercial buildings, very important to the big cities of this country, to the areas that would be the targets of terrorism, that they would not be able to get loans that are necessary obviously to build if they are not fully insured. Lenders are telling us, yes, we cannot now lend large amounts of money, tens, hundreds of millions of dollars to a building that might be at risk from terrorism and be uninsured against that risk.

I think we ought to have a responsible insurance system so that where we can minimize risk we can give people an incentive to be responsible in dealing with them. I do not think it is good public policy to say to people who want to build in New York or Chicago or Los Angeles or here in Washington, D.C., There are terrorists out there and they want to blow things up and you will bear that financial responsibility; that is up to you. That is unfair to the cities, and it gives the terrorists leverage over our economy.

So this is a bill which, in my mind, is not for benefit of the insurers but for the insured, and it is for the benefit of the insured so that we can go forward with the development of our economy.

Indeed, there is one issue here regarding the World Trade Center that we have not yet fully resolved, and I appreciate the chairman showing some interest in this. We were asked, both of us, by Members from the New York area about some provisions to deal with the possibility that the World Trade Center reconstruction will take too long. Frankly, those in charge in New York did not come to us until very late in the process, and it was not possible to accommodate something of that complexity now. I hope we do not rule it out for the future, but if they had come to us earlier, we might have been able to deal with it somewhat differently, but that illustrates the point.

This is a bill to make sure that economic activity in our biggest cities can go on uninterrupted, and the alternative is to let the terrorists put a terrorist tax on building large buildings in our big cities, and we should not allow that.

Let me just say, finally, I want to acknowledge, and my friend from Pennsylvania is here and will be taking this over, but this has been a cooperative effort with the chairman of the committee, the gentleman from New York (Mr. Israel), the gentleman from New York (Mr. Crowley). The gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Capuano) has done a lot.

Last point. Some of the consumer groups have raised what I think are misguided objections here. I do not see that this, in any way, impinges on the consumers negatively, but thanks to the gentlewoman from Florida, who will be speaking later, it has a very important proconsumer piece, and I appreciate the chairman's agreeing to add it, that protects Americans from arbitrary treatment if they are traveling to certain parts of the world.

So I am very supportive of this, and I would now turn over the management of the time to the gentleman from Pennsylvania.

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