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Election results will affect reform efforts

Posted On: Nov. 8, 2006 12:00 AM CST

WASHINGTON--The election of a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives and possibly in the Senate as well will mean new chairmen at the helms of committees that deal with risk management issues.

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., is poised to become chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. Rep. Frank, like his predecessor Rep. Mike Oxley, R-Ohio, has supported the continuation of the federal terrorism insurance backstop initially created by the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002.

If Democrats ultimately win a majority of the seats in the Senate, Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., is in line to become chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. Sen. Dodd has been a consistent supporter of the terrorism insurance backstop. The current chairman, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., has shown little interest in extending the backstop, which is slated to expire on Dec. 31, 2007.

The change in party control also means that significant federal tort reform initiatives are unlikely to emerge in the next Congress. An outspoken opponent of tort reform--Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich.--is likely to become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

In the Senate, a Democratic majority would likely mean that Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., will become chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sen. Leahy has also opposed broad tort reforms, although he did co-sponsor a bill that would created a no-fault national trust fund to replace the current litigation-based system for compensating victims of asbestos-related disease.