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Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2007

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

TERRORISM RISK INSURANCE PROGRAM REAUTHORIZATION ACT OF 2007 -- (House of Representatives - December 18, 2007)


Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. I appreciate the indulgence of my colleagues.

I am glad that we will finally be acting on this. I share the frustration of my friend from New York and, indeed, all of my friends from New York and elsewhere, Connecticut, who wanted a more comprehensive bill. There is a consolation. I think 1 year or so ago there were people who thought even a 7-year extension was much too much and were talking about phasing this out. I am glad that we are moving forward. I want to address those who say, well, this was supposed to be a temporary program until the market could take over. I never believed that. I always wanted this to be a government program.

I am a believer in the market; I believe almost all of us are. I understand how the market principle works in insurance. If you have a greater risk, you pay more; your premiums go up. We do that because we want to discourage people from taking certain risks, or at least make them pay the full cost. We also want to give them an incentive to diminish the risk. Those principles don't apply to terrorism.

I don't want a situation to exist whereby, if you build a large building, because that is essentially what we are talking about here; people can't build large buildings without bank loans, and they can't get bank loans without insurance. I don't want the cost to go up in any particular part of this country because murderous, vicious thugs want to do this country ill.

I don't believe that those who have been the victims of these kinds of terrorism ought to bear that cost. That is national defense. No more should any one State have to pay to protect itself against an invasion. We should have a national defense system that includes saying, we will hold you harmless against these murderous attacks. And it is, of course, because there is very little you can do to protect yourself against this. What do they do, put anti-aircraft guns on the roof? This is not a case where the market is failing. It is a case where national purpose is what is relevant, not the market.

Now, the other point to make is that I do regret the breakdown in the United States Senate of the legislative process. And, in particular, and I believe that the chairman of the banking committee, the Senator from Connecticut, wanted to move on this, but we were told, partly I think they made a mistake by waiting too long, but then they were told it had to be done unanimously. And we were told that the senior Republican on the committee, the Senator from Alabama, simply refused to deal with this.

Had this been up in the Senate and had the Senate voted ``no'' to nuclear, biological, chemical, and radiological coverage, had the Senate voted ``no'' to group life and the very important provision of our colleague, the gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. Wasserman Schultz), to protect people against discrimination if they wanted to travel to Israel or elsewhere; if the Senate had voted against the reset mechanism, I would have been disappointed, but I would have said, well, that is the way it works. But to have the opposition of the senior Republican mean that no debate or discussion, much less a vote, could take place is a breakdown of the system.

We are in a position where something at this point is better than nothing. But I want to say, as chairman of the Committee on Financial Services, we will begin early next year to try to get this back on the Senate agenda, and I will be urging my Senate colleagues not to put themselves in a position where this kind of one-person veto can prevent, not an outcome, none of us have the right to an outcome, but the American people ought to have a right to debate and discussion.

Now, there is a problem, Mr. Speaker, that I acknowledge, and it is a problem that those of us who have been frustrated by this, really, I mentioned the Senator from Alabama. I disagree with his obstruction. But let's put the blame where it belongs also, on James Madison. We had an election last year, and we elected a new House and we elected one-third of the Senate, and that is part of the problem. We have a House that responded to the election of 2006. We have at this point a House and a Senate each responding to somewhat different electoral impulses. We are here as a result of the election of 2006, every single one of us. Or subsequent special elections, sadly, in some cases.

In the Senate, two-thirds of that Senate was elected in 2002 and 2004. That is the disjunction. And it is not personal in general, it is electoral, and it is a frustration that cannot be overcome easily. But it does make me determined, as I go into the second year of this session, to pay more attention to that need. And we will be doing everything we can again. Again, we cannot guarantee outcome in the Senate or anywhere else, but the American people ought to be able to get the benefit of votes and debate.

So this is a recognition that terrorism insurance, in my judgment, should be here as long as terrorism is here. It is not a case of waiting for the market. It is a case of stepping up, as we should, for national defense purposes. And we will work, and I will be following the lead of my colleague from New York (Mr. Ackerman) and others as we try to make this bill an even better bill, reflecting what it was in the House.

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