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Rep. Waters aiming to pass 'clean' 10-year terrorism risk insurance bill soon

The House Financial Services Committee chair is leading an effort to soon pass a "clean" 10-year reauthorization of a government program that backstops insurers offering terrorism coverage.

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said at an Oct. 16 press conference that her committee intends to pass a long-term reauthorization of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, commonly known as TRIA, without any reforms.

The law was created in 2002 in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to provide a government guarantee to insurance companies providing products that protect companies against damages caused by terrorist attacks.

TRIA is triggered for an event that accounts for millions of dollars in losses across all affected insurers. The trigger threshold is set to reach $200 million by 2020. Since the law was enacted, TRIA has not been triggered.

Since 2002, the law has been reauthorized three times to keep the program in place. The current reauthorization is scheduled to expire in December 2020, but lawmakers in the Senate and now the House have begun work early to ensure there is no lapse in program coverage.

Waters' bill, backed by 24 Democrats and three Republicans, extends the existing provisions until 2030.

Speaking to reporters before an Oct. 10 hearing on the program, Waters said TRIA "is working as intended," so it does not need any reforms.

The chair said she plans to bring her bill to a committee markup in two weeks, find a legislative vehicle to attach the two-page bill to and send it to the Senate.

While the Senate has not yet introduced a bill reauthorizing TRIA, the Senate Banking Committee held a hearing June 18, effectively jumpstarting the reauthorization process. Chairman Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, said he has been exploring "additional balanced reforms" to the program.

Waters said a lot of work has been put into getting a group of senators on board with House Democrats' plans, a heavy lift even in a less-volatile political atmosphere. Making changes could torpedo the process, Waters added.

"When you have an agreement with the Senate to move something, you're so happy, you don't want to hear about anything else," Waters said. "We are now in sync, and that's how I want it to stay."

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo. and chairman of the Financial Services Committee's National Security, International Development and Monetary Policy Subcommittee, told reporters during the hearing that there may be room to attach some targeted amendments during the markup or on the floor of the House.

Most notably, Cleaver said, there could be support for adding an amendment that clearly states that cyberattacks by terrorists are covered under the law. Currently, the law makes no mention of cyberattacks, but they are mostly covered because of 2016 Treasury Department guidance allowing insurance companies to cover cyber insurance with the government backstop.

But while Cleaver said many members of Congress have articulated their desire for a cyberattack amendment, he fears support for the bill could falter if amendments are added.

Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C. and ranking member of the full committee, said in an interview that he would prefer to add clarifying language to the bill rather than lean on Treasury guidance.

"I don't think we need to do too much in terms of updating this, and I think it's sufficient," McHenry said. "But what is insufficient is our approach to cyber ... clarity is very important for insurance markets, especially after a terror attack."

A full committee markup is scheduled for October 29 and 30.