In early January, President Bush spoke in Clinton Township,Mich., about the need to curb asbestos lawsuits. Bush quoted theU.S. Supreme Court as saying that asbestos is a national problem.“That requires a national solution,” Bush said. Although thepresident did not define a remedy, he said that Congress needs toconsider the issue.

The following week, Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter(R-Pa.) held a hearing on draft legislation to establish a trustfund to resolve ongoing asbestos litigation. Specter's proposedlegislation does not meet the approval of the insurance industry,however. “Despite Senator Specter's considerable efforts, thecurrent discussion draft legislation, while well intentioned, doesnot accomplish those objectives,” said Ernie Csiszar, president andchief executive officer of the Property Casualty InsurersAssociation of America. “As drafted, the bill will not settle theasbestos claims that are clogging our court system, bankruptingbusinesses, and costing American jobs.”

Many, including the Michigan Trial Lawyers Association and U.S.Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), felt that the president failed togo far enough in his call to end asbestos litigation. “I am deeplytroubled that the president spoke of ending liability for companiesthat have used asbestos without addressing the need to ban thisdeadly substance,” said Murray. “The president can focus all hewants on limiting victims once they're sick, but I believe we muststop people from being victimized by asbestos in the firstplace.”

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