Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Asbestos Bill Goes Down

The United States Senate voted down the asbestos compensation bill by one vote yesterday. The vote came on a budgetary technicality that required 60 votes to move the bill forward. Proponents were only able to get 59 votes (although the final vote was 58-41 because Senator Frist changed his vote from yes to no, allowing him to bring it back for another vote later).
President Bush has made changes in the treatment of asbestos claims a legislative priority, and the Senate action was a major setback for the White House.

The bill, more than two years in the making, became a casualty of powerful business interests opposed to it, as well as of a forceful coalition of conservative and liberal senators. The conservatives argued that the measure could lead to a new and expensive federal entitlement program. The liberals maintained that the asbestos fund was not large enough to compensate victims and was a bailout for asbestos companies and their insurers.
Frist, who had warned earlier that this was the last chance for the bill, suggested that it might be brought up for another vote following Presidents Day because one Senator who supports the bill, Daniel Inouye (D-HI), was absent.