Earlier this week Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader, announced that an agreement had been reached between insurers and manufacturers to establish the trust fund that would pay victims of asbestos-related diseases based on medical criteria. Organised labour, however, condemned the size of the fund as insufficient to pay future claimants.
“We have reached the end, at least for this year,” Jon Hiatt, general counsel of the AFL-CIO told the Financial Times. “Some of them [insurers and manufacturers] are probably under the illusion that Frist either will try or, if he does, can succeed in jamming a partisan bill.”
Republicans are likely to have difficulty pushing through the legislation without the support of some Democrats.
Yesterday Tom Daschle, US Senate minority leader, said the legislation would not pass in its current form. Insurers and manufacturers have said $114bn is their “final offer”, suggesting that, for now, the legislation has very little chance of passage.
The chairman of the judiciary committee, worked for months with insurers, manufacturers and labour unions to craft legislation that would curb the flood of asbestos litigation that has driven more than 60 companies into bankruptcy. In addition to opposition from the unions, some insurers opposed the Hatch bill, which would have created a $153bn fund.
It was this inability to reach compromise that spurred Mr Frist to try to broker a deal