Controversial bill to create asbestos trust fund moves ahead in Senate

An epic drama is playing out in the U.S. Capitol over … asbestos. Seriously. A bill — which, after a 98 to 1 vote in the Senate yesterday, will now move to the floor for debate — would create a $140 billion industry-financed trust fund for victims of asbestos-related illness, but would also put a halt to the hundreds of thousands of pending asbestos lawsuits. Veterans came to D.C. to lobby for it; asbestos victims have collected 150,000 signatures against it. Lawsuit-fearing manufacturers support it, while an array of insurers, labor unions, and trial lawyers oppose it. The White House and GOP leadership support it, as do some Democrats, but bipartisan opposition means passage is far from assured. Said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), “One would have to search far and wide to find a bill as bad as this.” With so many of Washington’s most powerful lobbying groups geared for battle, expect a titanic struggle in coming weeks. Pass the popcorn!