How One Bill Can Save Sports, Skyscrapers, and Subways

Advocates say that without government-backed terrorism insurance, the economy would sputter.

Ford Field during award presentations at Super Bowl XL in an overhead view February 6, 2006 in Detroit.

Photographer: Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

What's at risk if Congress fails to extend government-backed terrorism risk insurance before adjourning this week? According to a coalition of athletic enterprises, insurance companies, developers and businesses, just about everything. 

The program traces its lineage to Sept. 11, 2001, when the strikes on the World Trade Center in New York resulted in more than $30 billion in insured losses, the most in history. After that, insurers began excluding terrorist attacks from policies.  So in November 2002, Congress passed the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act–TRIA, in DC parlance, which has been extended several times. It is again up for reauthorization. Some lawmakers, including Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn and Texas Representative Jeb Hensarling, have pointed out that TRIA was supposed to be temporary, yet here we are, some 12 years later.

The Coalition to Insure Against Terrorism warns that if the insurance-industry protection program isn't re-upped, places and events that look enticing to terrorists won't be able to get the insurance they need. Sports spectacles might go dark. Skyscrapers won't be built. Trains will stop running. Basically, the entire U.S. economy could grind to a halt.

The coalition's campaign is short on specifics, but the NFL has already tackled reports that the Super Bowl could be a casualty. (The league says the game will go on.)

The House voted 417 to 7 to back the Terrorism Risk Insurance reauthorization, and its fate now rests in the Senate. More specifically, it's in the hands of Coburn, who has been pushing to end the insurance protections. The retiring Oklahoma Republican told Bloomberg's James Rowley that "under the right circumstances," he'd permit quick passage, though he did not describe those circumstances.

Earlier, Coburn said he was concerned about a provision to set up a federal regulatory body to supervise insurance agents and brokers, saying it would usurp the states' role as industry overseers.

The government now kicks in to help cover losses resulting from terrorism that exceed $100 million. If the Senate approves the House plan, that ceiling would climb to $200 million by 2020, and then the program ends–or, if history is a guide,  gets reauthorized.   

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.
LEARN MORE