Transcript of Pelosi, Hoyer, Waters Press Conference Urging Long-Term Reauthorization of Terrorism Risk Insurance Act
Contact: Drew Hammill, 202-226-7616
Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Democratic Caucus Vice Chair Joe Crowley (D-NY), Committee on Financial Services Ranking Member Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Democratic Members of the House Financial Services Committee held a press conference today to urge the long-term reauthorization of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA). Below are the Leader’s opening remarks, as well as a question and answer session:
“Thank you very much, Ranking Member Maxine Waters, for your kind introduction, but more importantly for your great leadership on this issue on your Committee. You have been a champion for this Terrorism Risk Insurance initiative, for the Ex-Im bank, for so many issues that help create jobs in our country. Following you is a joy for many reasons – one of which is you have covered the territory very thoroughly.
“So I associate myself with your remarks. I just want to put them in this perspective: following 9/11, shortly thereafter, I was elected Whip of the House. And among my first meetings was with the business community on the subject of Terrorism Risk Insurance. We were of one mind in terms of the money involved, the time involved and the rest, and thought that it would be nonpartisan, non-controversial. But Democrats came together on the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, but it took a number of years for the Republicans, who were in the majority at the time, to bring it to the floor and pass the legislation.
“Once again, when it’s time for reauthorization, it has taken more time than it should. And that time contributes to uncertainty in the business community. And these are big projects. These are big projects. If you want to have major construction, you need to have purchased land, get credit from the bank and the rest of that, and if you can’t get insurance, you cannot proceed to do that. Some other countries could lure those opportunities for job creation away from us.
“Secondly, with Mr. Hensarling’s proposal of bifurcation of conventional versus chemical and radiological: 9/11 was conventional. So this bill would not even cover what happened on 9/11. So really, this should be so clearly understood that this is really important to our economy, to our businesses, to the American people. And hopefully, by just saying to all of you that the Democratic Caucus stands unified, 100 percent, in support of passing TRIA, we’ll get it done. Let’s get it done now. Let’s end the uncertainty. Let’s proceed with job creation. With that, I’m please to yield to the very distinguished Democratic Whip of the House, Steny Hoyer, who has worked on this issue for years as well, Mr. Hoyer.”
Congresswoman Waters. Thank you very much. Are there any questions from the press? Yes, ma’am?
Q: Can you please discuss what changes, if any, to the Senate bill House Democrats would be willing to accept? Particularly when it comes to the duration of the extension…
Congresswoman Waters. You do understand that our position has been that we support the Senate version, and we don’t support Mr. Hensarling’s bill? They’re in negotiations now, and my last conversation with Mr. Schumer was: “Stay strong. Insist on the Senate bill. Get everything you can get, and we’ll be very appreciative for it.”
Q: But if there were some changes to the Senate bill, would House Democrats not support…
Congresswoman Waters. I don’t advocate any changes at this point. Let the negotiations go forward.
Leader Pelosi. But I think it’s important to note that this is a public-private partnership. When we did the first authorization of it, it was about listening to the community about where we want to inject certainty into a situation that was very chaotic, following 9/11. It was about the duration, the amount of money, the stopgap, and the rest. And it was clear, it was logical, what the public-private agreement was on it. So you can’t take – it’s difficult to take pieces of it out without affecting the oneness of it. And I will say that it took over a year to pass. We could have passed it like “that.” There was complete agreement, public-private wise, on what it should be. And every month that went by from September 11 to the end of the following year was more uncertainty. And when you don’t pass a bill, the uncertainty of if you’re ever going to pass a bill also has an impact. So the Senate bill is clearly what is needed. It could go to the President’s desk later today or the beginning of next week. We hope that’s the choice we’ll have.
Congresswoman Waters. Yes.
Q: But it seems like they’re close, from what I hear, they’re close to getting to a deal, and that deal does include some changes to the Senate bill. Are you aware of that deal? Are you okay with the changes that him and Hensarling are agreeing on?
Congresswoman Waters. One of the things we have learned is that, when negotiations are going on, and leaks are being made, and gossip is being done, that you hear a lot of things about what is supposedly going on in those negotiations. And you have to be very careful about that. One thing that I do know is that I work with Mr. Hensarling, and he is unpredictable. And so, you may hear one thing this hour and another thing the next hour. So I would not, if I were you, consider that any rumors that you are hearing are concrete at all.
Leader Pelosi. And I do believe that, when they heard that we were coming out of our Caucus this morning having this press conference, it motivated them to look more closely to speeding up a timetable, or actually having the front office come into the negotiation instead of having Mr. Hensarling.
Vice Chair Crowley. Just for a moment also, to be clear: many of us wanted a longer period than the seven-year bill. So we’ve already compromised. I personally wanted at least a 10-year bill. Some were calling for a permanent extension of TRIA. Where it ends up is we want something substantial, no short-term extensions – that’s already been reiterated over and over again. But we want something substantial to give the business community the faith that they need in this system, to know that it will be there for them. The certainty is what we’re looking for.
Q: Should it be made permanent? I mean, there’s a lot of talk, why even not just insist on a permanent program? Could you ever imagine when TRIA – the insurance program – wouldn’t be needed?
Congresswoman Waters. That’s a very logical question. And some of us would certainly like to have a permanent program that does not have to be continuously reauthorized and fought over, etc.. Because we all know that we have witnessed terrorism in this country. And we want to make sure that the insurance companies are able to model the cost of insurance in ways that it is affordable. And we have said that we mandate that you make terrorism coverage – and we’re going to backstop it for you, and once you have, as it is in law now, spent this $100 million dollars, we have the backstop for you to ensure that we can rebuild our communities.
Q: Can I ask you a question, Leader Pelosi? I’m covering this topic, but I’m also covering the omnibus. Are you confident that you’ll be able to – since they need your votes – that you’ll be able to keep the riders that they’re currently negotiating over to a minimum?
Leader Pelosi. Well that would be the hope. I have extended the hand of friendship, once again, to the Speaker to say: we stand ready to cooperate. There are some of those riders that we cannot live with. If he has 218 votes, then there’s no conversation. If he doesn’t, we have leverage over those riders. I have confidence in Nita Lowey, our negotiator, and the Senate Democrats on the subject of the riders. But until we see the bill, there’s no way you can say you support it or not.
But I just remind you that it’s a value to us to keep government open. It isn’t necessarily a value to the other side. And in fact, it was the House Democrats that opened up government last year. Because they did not have the votes on their side to open government once they had closed. And I also remind you, since you asked the question, that before they shut down government – and it’s important to note this – before they shut down government, they decided that we would go from the [$1.057] trillion number down, to what was it, $988 [billion] – like 80 billion, it was $1.058 [trillion] to $988 [billion]: an $80 billion reduction, very harmful. Their chairman, Mr. Rogers, said: ‘We cannot honor our responsibilities to the American people at this level.’ But this was the House Republican number – $988 [billion].
Harry Reid said, in order to keep the government open, ‘we’ll accept the number.’ The President of the United States said: ‘We’ll accept the number.’ I called the Speaker and said: ‘House Democrats will give you the votes to keep government open, although we do not’ – Mr. Hoyer should be here, because he railed against that number, because it was indecent – but nonetheless, closing government was unthinkable. So I called him, I said: ‘Okay, we’ll give you our votes so that you don’t shut down government. We’ll accept your number.’ The only people who did not accept the House Republican number were the House Republican Members, and they overwhelmingly voted to shut down government for 16 days. And when they finally, by public pressure, came back, it was Democratic votes that opened the House.
So we understand how damaging it is to our economy and all of our investments that we make – whether it’s in science, in education, in our veterans, in our men and women in uniform and our national security – that we can’t shut down government. I hope they would have that value as well. And again, we stand ready to cooperate to find common ground. It’s not going to be all our way. But I’ll look forward to seeing some kind of response from the Speaker. He either has the votes, and he’s going to proceed with it, or he needs our help and we have to get rid of many of those riders. But you asked ‘confidence’ – I have confidence in Nita Lowey. Thank you.
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