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Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Authorization Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, we have before us a bill where unfortunately we do not believe in markets. We are told markets will not work, so we have a terrorism risk insurance bill. That means the Federal Government is going to be the insurer of last resort. There have been some improvements over what we have put forward in the past, and I agree with those improvements if in fact we have to do this. I am not convinced we have to do it, but we are going to do it, and I understand that. I think the work of the committee, of which I am a member, has been very good.

But there is one real problem with this bill, and it is about smoke and mirrors, it is about not being honest with the American people. This bill was designed so it would have no score. It was not designed to do the best we can for America should we have a tragedy, and it was not designed to create the flexibility that would be necessary if we do have a tragedy.

Let me outline this for you. The way this bill is set up is that we could have a significant tragedy, God forbid, in this country from a terrorist attack, and the bill will mandate spikes in casualty and property insurance far above what will need to happen because we passed the bill to pass a CBO score. So what could happen is we would have to collect billions of dollars over an 18-month period through premium increases on everybody in the country, not just where we had the problem--everybody in the country--because we have designed a bill that will in fact mandate that or at least could mandate that.

I have been around this place for 10 years. I know exactly what is going to happen if that comes about through this TRIA bill. The first thing that will happen is the Senate and the House will pass an elimination of this requirement. So what will happen is the American taxpayer will get stuck with all this. They all know that. Everybody agrees they designed the bill to meet CBO. So what I put in was an amendment that would give flexibility to the Treasury so we do not, after one tragedy, create another tragedy with markedly elevated casualty and property rates. We still recoup the money, but we do it over a longer period of time, if it is necessary, and we give the Secretary of the Treasury the ability to do that.

My friend from New York says there is a budget point of order that lies against it. It does according to CBO. I agree, it does. But the difference between this and most budget points of order is my amendment will not increase the deficit one penny--not one penny.

I would also note that my colleague from New York has voted to override budget points of order every time they have been offered this year. So it is going to be curious to me to all of a sudden have a budget point of order raised by someone who has voted to override the budget point of order every time it has been offered in the Senate this session, and it goes to why we should not pass this bill without common sense in terms of how we collect the recoupment.

I understand the constraints of CBO, but I also understand common sense. So we are going to play the game on the constraints, and we are ultimately going to pass on--rather than recoup--we are ultimately going to pass it on to the American taxpayer, which hollows out the whole purpose of the bill.

So this has a billion-dollar score, on which we are going to have a point of order, which I am sure I will lose. But when you vote for this bill, know you are not voting for what the bill says it is going to do because it is going to do something completely different than what it says, if we were to have one of these catastrophies.

The political pressure to not have these massive increases in property and casualty insurance--this place will fall, and so will the House, and we will change this, and we will have the score then. We will have the score then, and ultimately your children will pay for the cost of this terrorism risk insurance, not the people who are owning the property today, not the insurance company. We will just kick the can down the road, just as we have on everything else.

It would seem to me that we would want to do something that works along

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the parameters of this bill, and we ought to build in flexibility to this bill so that--it may be 10 years that we get on one of these because the bill is divided up to meet the score so it does not score in any one period. So over an 18-month period we could have to recoup it all and people could not tolerate those kinds of rate increases in their businesses or their homes. They would not be able to tolerate it and we would change it. Just as I am asking for us to change it now and be honest with the American people, we are going to change it if that happens.
We will change this, and we will delay the onset of the collection of this recoupment. Everybody knows that will happen. So why not be honest about it and put it in the bill now and waive the budget point of order because it does not change the deficit one penny. It changes when we collect it, but we still collect it against the risk of not collecting it at all.

That is what I ask my colleagues. I do not expect to win the amendment, but it is another confirmation to the American people that we are not about truth, we are not about doing commonsense things; we are about playing games and we are about satisfying the demands of the industry over which this applies.

Nobody knows what could happen in this country in terms of terrorism, but everybody knows I am right about this issue.

All I am saying is: Fess up. Be honest, colleagues. Let's build the flexibility in this so we do not have to address it, and the Treasury Secretary, no matter whether it is a Democrat or Republican administration, can use common sense to guide about how fast this recoupment will come; otherwise, you have not done anything to improve this bill if, in fact, this is not accepted.

I will be leaving here at the end of the year. Hopefully, we never see another terrorism event in this country. But if we do, it will be a sweet irony when you all say: Oops, time out. We are not going to do what we said we were going to do in that bill because the country cannot take it. What you will do is put one tragic event on top of another. You will not do that. So what will happen? You will change this bill. You will get that score. You will call it an emergency. You will do it anyway.

All I am asking is, be honest about what is going to ultimately happen on this should we have an event and it fall within one of these close parameters, based on what we said in the bill, because we are running the bill according to what CBO says, not as to what common sense is.

I look forward to having a vote on this amendment. I understand my likelihood of being successful. But I also understand the lack of honesty in dealing with the American people if we do not accept this amendment.

I yield the floor.

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