Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Asbestos Compensation Bill Sent To Full Senate

By a vote of 13-5, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed asbestos compensation legislation Thursday and sent it to the full Senate.
All 10 Republicans voted to move the bill to the full Senate, as did three Democrats. The opponents were all Democrats.

Three Republicans on the committee said they were not sure they would support the bill's ultimate passage. Support in the House of Representatives, which has not considered the issue, is uncertain.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), a physician, said he would vote against the bill as written because he said the medical criteria would permit compensation to smokers and others with cancers not clearly related to asbestos.

Coburn estimated that the payments for lung cancers of undetermined cause could amount to as much as $20 billion a year, quickly bankrupting the fund.

"It's not going to work," Coburn said. "We're giving false hope. This bill as written will fail in year three, four or five."

But at a news conference after the vote, Specter said he expected the bill to win support from both parties on the Senate floor. He said neither victims' advocates nor companies and their insurers got all they wanted.

"Everyone wants a little more, but the final vote is going to turn on whether it's better than the current system," Specter said. "When you look at the deal versus the current system, there's no contest."
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