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‹ FEATURED DISCUSSION

November 01, 2006

"Democratic Congress Could Reshape Tort Reform"

By Ted Frank

This Oct. 23 BestWire story by R.J. Lehmann is subscriber-only, but we'll give you the parts that quote me and Walter:

Now, given polling that strongly indicates the Democrats are likely to pick up at least the 15 seats needed to take control of the House in the Nov. 7 general election, the 110th Congress is expected to take a very different approach to tort reform issues than the one that preceded it. But to reform advocates, the practical effect of the changes aren’t likely to be as drastic as one might expect, noted Ted Frank, director of the American Enterprise Institute Liability Project.

"On the federal level, the bottleneck has always been the Senate," Frank said, citing that body's rules of procedure which require 60 votes to cut off debate and bring a bill to a floor vote. “No tort reform [bill] has passed in the Bush Administration without significant bipartisan support. That's still going to be true today, and it would be true whomever is in charge, barring some unlikely super-majority."

[...]

Walter K. Olson, a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute's Center for Legal Policy, suggested changes in party leadership could introduce new solutions to some vexing issues. For instance, under a Democratic leadership, the asbestos trust fund proposal — which enjoyed some bipartisan support in the form of cosponsor Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. — could be restructured to include some measure of government funding, an idea that Republicans had strongly opposed.

"This may be one area where not being allergic to federal spending could open up new grounds for possible compromise," Olson said. "If the U.S. Navy were not a government entity, it would so clearly have been the number one defendant (in asbestos suits.) The general reluctance for the government to take any responsibility for its part is puzzling at best."

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Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.