WASHINGTON Lawmakers are working behind the scenes to spur a potential vote as soon as next week on legislation that would ease capital standards for insurance companies.
The Senate Banking Committee is considering adding the legislation as an amendment to an unrelated bill to reauthorize the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act at a markup scheduled for Tuesday, though the amendment's inclusion has not yet been decided, according to several sources. It's also possible the measure could bypass regular order and pass on the chamber floor via unanimous consent as a standalone bill in coming weeks.
The legislation, by Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Mike Johanns, R-Neb., would clarify a Dodd-Frank Act provision known as the Collins amendment (named after the Maine lawmaker), so that Federal Reserve officials do not have to apply bank capital standards to systemically important nonbank institutions, including insurance companies.
"One way or the other, it looks like the Senate is going to push forward with this fix," said Isaac Boltansky, a policy analyst at Compass Point Research & Trading. "There are a handful of must-move measures left for this Congress to tackle, which makes the TRIA reauthorization a viable vehicle for considering a Collins amendment fix."
The move comes amidst increasing pressure from the insurance industry to formalize the clarification, after regulators indicated that the capital standards provision ties their hands. The Senate bill has 17 additional co-sponsors, and nine supporters of the bill sit on the Banking Committee.
"It's pivotal because insurance companies don't fund themselves or operate in a manner similar to banks," said Boltansky. "So if you applied bank-based capital or liquidity rules to insurance companies, many of them would fall dramatically short of those standards given the operational differences."
It remains unclear whether the House will take up a companion bill by Reps. Gary Miller, R-Calif. and Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., which has 48 cosponsors.