AP - White House Veto Could Hurt New World Trade Center
The White House threatened Monday to veto a bill that would add 15 years to a post-Sept. 11 government insurance program which supporters say is critical for major projects like the new World Trade Center.
The Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, or TRIA, was one of a series of bills passed by Congress in the wake of the 2001 attacks. It is due to expire this year, and the House of Representatives had planned to vote this week on a 15-year extension.
If the current version of the bill reaches President Bush, his advisers will recommend a veto, the White House Office of Management and Budget said in a statement Monday.
The Bush administration said the government should get out of the insurance business in the near future and end the TRIA program, which is essentially a backstop mechanism to ensure terrorism insurance is available and affordable for major projects and buildings.
"The administration strongly opposes efforts to expand the federal government's role in terrorism reinsurance. The most efficient, lowest cost, and most innovative methods of providing terrorism risk insurance will come from the private sector," budget officials wrote.
"I strongly disagree," said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y. "TRIA is absolutely essentially, and we will continue to support it and work for it one step at a time."
Businesses, particularly in New York, claim that without the program they will not be able to get insurance coverage for nuclear, biological, chemical, and radiological attacks, and some local officials fear without the government program they may not even be able to rebuild the World Trade Center site.
If buildings can't be insured, banks may not lend money to build them, insurance groups argue.
The current program provides a federal insurance backup for catastrophic losses suffered in a terrorist attack, which the insurance industry says is needed because such attacks are so expensive and hard to predict. Under the bill headed for a House vote, the program can only be triggered when the amount of property and casualty losses reach $100 million.
The White House is worried over the potential long-term cost of the legislation, noting that a 10-year version could cost more than $10 billion, according to one estimate.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., charged the veto threat "is putting ideology ahead of economic growth."
The terrorism insurance program, Schumer said "is essential to construction and growth in many of our large cities. It is particularly needed now as the economy softens."