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Bush administration opposes terror backstop bill


WASHINGTON--A House of Representatives bill that would extend the federal terrorism insurance backstop for 10 years "does not meet" the Bush administration's objectives, a key Treasury official told a House subcommittee on Thursday.

The administration's three objectives are: The program must be both temporary and short-term, private-sector retentions must be increased before coverage can be triggered and the program should not be expanded, said David G. Nason, assistant treasury secretary for financial institutions.

Mr. Nason did not, however, call for the program to end Dec. 31, its scheduled expiration date, during his appearance before the House Financial Services Committee's Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Insurance and Government Sponsored Enterprises. He indicated that the administration might accept a two- or three-year extension under some circumstances.

Mr. Nason's comments dealt with the Terrorism Risk Insurance Revision and Extension Act, which was introduced Monday by a group of House Democrats. Among other things, the bill would extend the program for 10 years, allow the backstop to cover acts of domestic as well as foreign terrorism, and cover group life insurance as well as property/casualty lines. The measure would also require insurers to "make available" coverage for nuclear, biological, chemical and radiological risks, albeit at a relatively low level.

Extending the program without meeting the administration's three objectives "would be moving in the wrong direction," Mr. Nason told the panel. He took an even stronger position, one noted by Democratic members of the panel, in written testimony, saying, "In Treasury's view, from both a market and economic perspective, it would be better to have no TRIA than a bad TRIA."