Asbestos Update: What's Next in the Senate?

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R.-Tenn.) today outlined his plans for dealing with the stalled Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act (S. 852), which was filibustered earlier this week.

For procedural reasons, Frist was one of the "no" votes, but with his vote and the vote of Sen. Daniel Inouye (D.-Hawaii), who was absent, there would be enough votes to cut off debate and end the filibuster.

Here’s what Frist had to say:

“Chairman Specter and Leahy led a valiant effort on the floor these past 2 weeks attempting to pass legislation tackling the very real asbestos litigation crisis that is currently denying victims true justice.  

“Nearly $74 billion has been lost on the inefficient and disastrous asbestos litigation system, with wealthy trial lawyers receiving almost $30 billion at the expense of asbestos victims.  These costs have already bankrupted 77 companies, destroyed 150,000 American jobs and caused workers to lose $200 million in wages.  Meanwhile, victims with real injuries are left with no recourse, spending years awaiting a trial without getting the justice they deserve.

“Since 1991, members of the Supreme Court have repeatedly asked Congress to fix the asbestos litigation crisis.  Justice Ginsberg suggested a trust fund resolution in 1997, almost 8 years ago.

“This session of the Senate is dedicated to securing America’s future and governing with meaningful results to improve our competitiveness, tackle the high cost of health care, move our country towards energy independence, keep our economy strong and fight the war on terror.  We will work on this agenda in the face of continued Democratic obstruction.

“To fix the asbestos crisis without additional delay, I have told Chairman Specter and Senator Leahy that 60 members must signify their commitment to support both the motion to waive the pending Budget Act point of order and end any filibuster of the bill.  Once that public assurance is given, I will look to schedule the bill at the earliest possible opportunity.  The victims of asbestos exposure deserve no less.”