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My name is David Stone. I live in Houston, Texas. I am a 30-something single white male. I am an Orthodox Christian and am a member of an English-language parish of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR).

Saturday, September 10, 2005

U.S. Senate panel OKs asbestos subpoena power

U.S. Senate panel OKs asbestos subpoena power

Thu Sep 8, 2005 1:29 PM ET

By Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON, Sept 8 (Reuters) - A Senate committee on Thursday gave its leaders authority to subpoena information from companies facing asbestos lawsuits as lawmakers work on legislation creating a $140 billion fund for asbestos victims.

The unanimous voice vote gave Judiciary Committee leaders authority to subpoena information about how much companies would expect to contribute to the privately financed fund.

The panel's chairman, Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Arlen Specter, told members he did not know if subpoenas would be necessary, but he wanted "a little muscle" in case companies continued to resist producing the data.

Although the proposed bill has a formula for industry contributions, based on a company's size and prior asbestos expenditures, many companies are reluctant to discuss how it would affect them, saying the information could expose them to more lawsuits.

Specter said he hopes to bring the bill to the Senate floor the first week of October. Aides said the industry information could be used to make changes necessary to build Senate support for the bill.

Without the sought-after information, the bill is "in peril," committee Republican Texas Sen. John Cornyn warned as he applauded the subpoena power authorization.

Specter and the ranking Democrat on the panel, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, have been seeking more data from the industry for months to answer colleagues' questions about the asbestos compensation fund legislation, which they are co-sponsoring.

Some senators in both parties say they cannot back the bill unless they know how much each company would pay into the fund. Some worry the costs will be unequally distributed or that there simply will not be enough money contributed to pay claims.

"The committee has been woefully underinformed about both the costs and funding of this bill," Cornyn said in a statement. "Without the necessary information, and without the ability to meet the funding requirements, this bill is in peril."

Asbestos, widely used for fireproofing and insulation until the 1970s, has been linked to cancer, and hundreds of thousands of injury claims have bankrupted dozens of U.S. companies.

Specter and Leahy's bill, approved by the judiciary panel in May, would halt the lawsuits and pay claims from a fund financed by asbestos defendant companies and their insurers.


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