How Congress Could Choose to Deal with TRIA

November 24, 2014

In my last blog post, I discussed aspects related to the TRIA reauthorization bills that have been proposed by the House of Representatives and the Senate. Unfortunately, efforts to advance these measures stalled during the late summer months as Congress prepared for the 2014 mid-term elections.

There are now precious few working days left for Congress until the end of the 2014 calendar year-at which time TRIA will expire, leaving insurers and businesses in the U.S. vulnerable to the full cost of any future terrorist attacks.

After the mid-term elections, the Republicans gained control of both chambers of Congress for the first time in eight years, and will retain it for the remainder of President Obama's term. The GOP seized control of the Senate from the Democrats and won an even tighter grip on the House of Representatives. This new political landscape means the Republican Party will be able to challenge the agenda of the Democratic Party as soon as the 114th Congress commences in early 2015.

So how might this influence the outcome of TRIA?

This past July, the full Senate floor voted 93-4 to pass TRIA reauthorization bill S.2244-signaling a strong bipartisan support for this measure. This put pressure on House leaders to address their TRIA reauthorization bill, H.R. 4871, which contains some material differences from both the Senate bill and the current TRIA program.

House GOP leaders then held an informal count and realized they did not have the votes to pass their bill on the full House floor. Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Jeb Hensarling (R., Texas), has remained steadfast in defending the House bill, and believes that TRIA should not be reauthorized without substantial reform, as was apparent in his recent op-ed for the Washington Times. Mr. Hensarling has also said that the only alternative he would consider before the end of the year is a short-term extension of the current program.

With the Republican Party having more control over the next Congress, an extension into 2015 might give Mr. Hensarling the power needed to persuade GOP leaders to scale back the program even further before reauthorizing. This leaves many GOP leaders wondering if they should circumvent Chairman Hensarling and move to pass the Senate bill before the end of 2014-or should they stand by their Chairman?

Given this lame-duck session is shaping up to be one of the most contentious in history, let's ponder how Congress might choose to deal with TRIA:

They can let TRIA expire. This is obviously the most undesirable outcome for the commercial insurance industry. Even so, hope would remain for the new Congress to revisit the issue in early 2015.

They might pass the Senate bill in the House before the end of 2014. House GOP leaders would need to agree to bypass the Chairman's position on TRIA. If the bill passes the House, it would then go directly to the President. The White House has already voiced support for this measure.

Or they can authorize a new bill for a 6-12 month temporary extension of the current program. If the House decides to take the side of Hensarling, then moving toward this outcome becomes more likely. However, it is not yet clear if such a measure would pass both the House and the Senate.

While this debate is likely to continue throughout the 2014 lame-duck session, we must not lose hope that our Congress will do the right thing by extending TRIA again. Considering the ongoing threats of terrorism to the U.S. homeland, it is my hope-and expectation-that Congress will work to reauthorize TRIA before it's too late.

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