Thank you for writing to me about the Senate's consideration of asbestos claims and litigation reform. I appreciate hearing from you on this important legislation.
As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I have been working hard over the past three years to help forge a compromise over an asbestos claims and litigation reform bill which will adequately compensate asbestos victims while providing appropriate financial safeguards for businesses. The ultimate goal of any such legislation should be to create a no-fault administrative system that ensures victims are paid as quickly as possible, especially the sickest, without having to face expensive, lengthy trials.
At each step of the legislative process, the bill under consideration in the Senate has been improved to achieve bipartisan support. There is still more work to be done and many difficult issues to resolve. Recently, the asbestos bill was brought to the Senate floor, but it was pulled from consideration before many important amendments could be offered. I have attached a copy of a statement that I gave in the Senate during the bill's consideration.
I am hopeful we can pass a strong bill to provide adequate compensation to victims who have been harmed from exposure to asbestos and ban asbestos from being used or imported into our country. Please know that I will continue to work to make sure that any legislation represents a fair and reasonable solution to the current problem.
Again, thank you for writing. I hope you will continue to keep me informed on issues of importance to you. If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact my Washington, DC office at (202) 224-3841.
Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, today, I join the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Specter, in introducing an amended version of S. 852, the Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act of 2006, the FAIR Act. This legislation enhances our previous trust fund bill by adopting many of the amendments filed in February by Senators on both sides of the aisle. We have incorporated amendments that further protect against fraud and make sure the sickest victims are paid as soon as possible. We added crucial provisions that make the trust fund accessible to victims who were exposed to asbestos during the attacks on the World Trade Center and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. We clarified the bill language to ensure that inactive dormant claims cannot be revived to overwhelm the trust fund.
This legislation also contains a few additional changes that we believe respond directly to concerns raised by our colleagues during floor debate. The floor amendments incorporated in this bill include, among others, the Kyl funding amendment that will protect small and medium sized businesses. We also addressed the concerns of businesses that currently pay nothing or very little because they are well-insured. None of these changes undermine the existing guarantee on overall private funding at $140 billion.
Also importantly, we preserved the ability of the existing bankruptcy trusts to continue paying impaired victims while the trust fund becomes operational. This will smooth the transition for victims who were exposed by companies that are currently protected from suit by bankruptcy. And finally, we clarified the statute of limitations for our Nation's war veterans so they will have better access to the trust fund.
None of the additional provisions contained in this substitute diminish the bill's key principle: That the asbestos trust fund will be comprised solely of private money. Nothing in this bill will reduce the protection of victims against insurance subrogation. I am proud to report that we have also maintained our core medical criteria so that those who have been impaired by asbestos exposure will receive compensation appropriate to their injuries. * * * Unfortunately, time is running out for this session of Congress. I know that some partisans will claim that we should refrain from reaching across the aisle during an election year but this persistent problem compels us to move forward to try and help the thousands of victims of asbestos exposure. I urge the Senate majority leader to give us sufficient floor time to debate and vote on this important legislation on its merits.
June 7, 2006
Committee on the Judiciary: Committee concluded a hearing to examine S. 3274 , to create a fair and efficient system to resolve claims of victims for bodily injury caused by asbestos exposure, after receiving testimony from former Michigan Governor John Engler, National Association of Manufacturers, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Council on Foreign Relations, and Dennis M. Cullinan, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, all of Washington, D.C.; Peter J. Ganz, Foster Wheeler Ltd., Clinton, New Jersey; Eric D. Green, Boston University School of Law, and Edmund F. Kelly, Liberty Mutual Group, both of Boston, Massachusetts; Flora M. Green, Seniors Coalition, Fairfax, Virginia; and James A. Grogan, International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Asbestos Workers, Lantham, Maryland.
June 29, 2006
At the request of Mr. SPECTER , the names of the Senator from Tennessee (Mr. ALEXANDER ), the Senator from Ohio (Mr. DEWINE ) and the Senator from New Mexico (Mr. DOMENICI ) were added as cosponsors of S. 3274 , a bill to create a fair and efficient system to resolve claims of victims for bodily injury caused by asbestos exposure, and for other purposes.