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Murray Votes 'No' on Inadequate and Unfair Asbestos Bill

Apr 22 2004

Champion of asbestos ban says Frist/Hatch bill doesn't do enough to compensate victims, help family members, support research, or protect Americans from future harm

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) today voted against a bill that would continue to keep Americans in the dark about the dangers of asbestos and deny victims of asbestos-related diseases the compensation they deserve.

The bill failed to move forward on a 50-47 vote. Murray said she would continue her fight to protect Americans from deadly asbestos.

"I've been working for three years to help victims and ban asbestos. After listening to victims, hearing their stories and looking them in the eye, there is no way I could vote for this inadequate and unbalanced bill," Murray said.

The bill did include a modified ban on asbestos, which Murray has been working to pass for years. Despite that progress, Murray said she was, "deeply disturbed by what this bill will do to people whose lives have been torn apart by asbestos, to future victims, to family members, and to average Americans who are being exposed to deadly asbestos everyday without even knowing it."

In a 30-minute speech on the Senate floor on Wednesday, Murray outlined six ways the bill failed asbestos victims.

"The awards are too small. The trust fund is inadequate. It fails to educate Americans about the dangers of asbestos. It falls short on research, tracking and treatment for asbestos diseases. It puts unfair burdens on family members. It allows insurance companies to reduce a victim’s award," Murray said in her floor speech.

Specifically, Murray noted that the trust fund was too small to compensate all victims. She questioned why the trust fund had been cut by more than $40 billion from the bill that passed the Senate Judiciary Committee last year.

She noted that the bill would give victims less compensation than they deserve, and in some cases, less than they would have received in court.

The bill also would have imposed restrictive hurdles on family members who were exposed to asbestos through no fault of their own. Those hurdles reduced the chance that family members would receive any compensation.

In addition, the bill did nothing to educate the public of the existence and dangers of asbestos in their daily lives, a key feature of the legislation (S.1115) that Murray introduced in May 2002. Murray also noted that the Frist/Hatch bill did not sufficiently invest in research, tracking or treatment for asbestos-related diseases.

"Asbestos liability is a real problem. It's a problem for victims, and it's a problem for companies. We need a balanced solution. Unfortunately, the bill the Senate voted on today was not a serious solution," Murray said. "I've been working to address this challenge for the past three years, and I'm not going to stop now."