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Asbestos Bill Goes Up in Flames

A bipartisan group of senators struck a blow to the Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act (S. 852). By a vote of 58-41, Republicans were unable to muster enough votes to cut off debate and proceed to a floor vote. Instead, the bill was sent back to the Judiciary Committee.

Although a majority of Republicans supported the legislation, the bill actually ran into opposition from conservative. Writing for HUMAN EVENTS last week, the National Taxpayer Union’s Pete Sepp and Jeff Dircksen outlined some of the problems:

Although its supporters portray this proposal as a way to control rapacious trial lawyers and protect businesses from unfair claims, conservatives have reason to be skeptical. 

The legislation, sponsored by Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R.-Pa.), would establish a $140 billion national trust fund that would compensate asbestos exposure victims and resolve their legal claims. Despite months of negotiations with various "stakeholders," Specter is still working to "improve" the bill. A great amount of uncertainty surrounds the proposal’s final language as well as how Congress will respond to the fund’s inevitable bankruptcy. Unfortunately, no amount of tinkering or tweaking at this stage will improve the FAIR Act.

Tim Chapman, writing at Townhall.com’s Capital Report, outlines some of the other problems with the Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act. In a previous Townhall column, Chapman cited this as one of the most significant reasons: 

The bill would create a private company funded trust fund from which to help compensate asbestos victims with their medical liabilities. As a bonus, the bill would stop the trial lawyers from driving a stake into the heart of the economy with frivolous asbestos lawsuits.

So who the renegade Republican who stood up for conservative principles? Here’s a list of the 10: 

  1. Bunning (R-KY)
  2. Crapo (R-ID)
  3. DeMint (R-SC)
  4. Ensign (R-NV)
  5. Graham (R-SC)
  6. Gregg (R-NH)
  7. Inhofe (R-OK)
  8. McCain (R-AZ)
  9. Sununu (R-NH)
  10. Thune (R-SD)

And who were the Democrats who joined most Republicans in an attempt to cut off debate? There were 14. Here’s the list:

  1. Baucus (D-MT)
  2. Bayh (D-IN)
  3. Carper (D-DE)
  4. Dodd (D-CT)
  5. Feinstein (D-CA)
  6. Harkin (D-IA)
  7. Jeffords (I-VT)
  8. Kohl (D-WI)
  9. Landrieu (D-LA)
  10. Leahy (D-VT)
  11. Levin (D-MI)
  12. Lieberman (D-CT)
  13. Lincoln (D-AR)
  14. Stabenow (D-MI)
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Written By

Mr. Bluey, a contributing editor to Human Events, is director of the Center for Media & Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation. He maintains a blog at RobertBluey.com.

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