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Asbestos & Mesothelioma

Asbestos Ban Faces Unexpected Gridlock in Congress

— October 4, 2020

Republicans say their left-leaning counterparts inserted a provision “written by trial lawyers.”

An asbestos ban most political commentors had expected to sail through Congress is being held up because of bipartisan bickering.

The Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act, writes The Hill, exited its committee review with just a single “no” vote. However, objections over aspects of the bill have since arisen.

Now, House Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee are blaming their conservative counterparts for the delay. Aides have, for instance, said that Republican legislators are hesitant to pass the bill—as written—because the statute would not block ongoing litigation over injuries related to talcum powder usage.

“Everyone should be able to support a ban on this known carcinogen, which has no place in our consumer products or processes,” Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ) said in a statement. “More than 40,000 Americans die every year from asbestos exposure, but Republicans are willing to look the other way.”

Rep. Pallone further suggested that Republicans are willing to block—or attempt to block—the bill’s passage simply because it would not kill off talcum-related litigation.

The U.S. Capitol at dusk. Image via Wikimedia Commons/user:Martin Falbisoner. (CCA-BY-3.0)

“Republicans walked away from this opportunity to ban asbestos merely over language that prevents shutting the courtroom door,” he said. “This raises serious questions about the sincerity of their intentions.”

The Hill notes that most talcum powder-related lawsuits have been filed by “minority women,” many of whom claim to have developed ovarian cancer after using asbestos-laced baby powder. As such, Democrat lawmakers and aides say they included the clause on talcum litigation “to make sure nothing in the bill would block the minority women who are primarily bringing suits over harm from cosmetic talc.”

Republicans, though, maintain that Democrats designed the provision to please trial lawyers who will stand to profit atop unabridged litigation.

“What does this new language do? As anyone can guess, it creates questions about the intent of the law that could lead to uncertainty in interpretation and implementation of the law,” congressional Republicans wrote in a virtual statement. “This, in turn, could lead to litigation.”

Reps. Greg Walden (R-OR) and John Shimkus (R-IL) also said any claim that Republicans walked away from the negotiating table is simply untrue.

“Saying we walked away is simple untrue,” the two said in a separate statement. “All Democrats have to do is drop the language added by trial lawyers and bring the bill to the floor that every one of their members voted for when it was considered by our committee. If anyone’s intentions should be question, we can assure you it’s not ours.”


Asbestos ban stalls in Congress amid partisan fight

Partisan fight sinks asbestos ban

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