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Justice and Common Sense Prevail Over Special Interests in Senate’s Asbestos Bill Vote

Feb. 15, 2006

Justice and Common Sense Prevail Over Special Interests in Senate’s Asbestos Bill Vote

Statement of Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook

The Senate’s refusal late Tuesday to approve an asbestos trust fund that defied budget law is a victory for both asbestos disease victims and taxpayers. The unjust and poorly conceived plan threatened to abrogate the rights of many asbestos disease sufferers and leave taxpayers footing the bill for injuries caused by decades of corporate lies and deception. Ten thousand people in America die each year from asbestos exposure at work and in the environment, with millions more to come.

This vote was a Valentine from a prudent, responsible Senate to all Americans – especially to asbestos victims. The Congressional Budget Office has found that the proposed trust fund would have run up a $7 billion deficit in the first 10 years that would have had to be covered by borrowing. 

The legislation now heads back to committee for an overhaul. If the interested outside organizations are again assembled by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) to comment on the legislation, this time he should include consumer and environmental representatives.

We also call on Specter, who has obtained critical and relevant information by subpoena, to release it. The information he has includes the names of companies that would have been obligated to contribute to the asbestos trust fund and the amounts they would have paid.

The public – and asbestos victims in particular – deserve to know which corporations knowingly poisoned workers, consumers and factory-town residents over the years. Those companies should be required to fully compensate their victims, not to use their monied might to reduce their liability with legislated limits.