Need for Terrorism Insurance Agreement
Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building
October 3, 2002
11:15 A.M. EDT
Thanks for coming today. We're talking about a serious subject, which is jobs,
the ability for people to find work in America. I spend a lot of my time worrying
about the job security of our fellow citizens. And after last year's terrorist
attacks that destroyed life and destroyed building, you've got to recognize
they hurt our economy, as well.
We responded to those attacks with incredible unity, and I'm grateful. And the
enemy is not. But we need to show the same unity and resolve to get our people
back to work. Too many Americans are looking for work and they can't find work.
The economic signs are good -- they are. Interest rates are low, inflation is
low; our workers are the most productive in the world; our entrepreneurs are
the most productive in the world. And that's incredibly positive.
Yet, we can't be satisfied until anybody who is looking for work can find a
job. That's what we've got to do here in America. And we can do more in Washington,
D.C. Before these folks go home, there is something they can do to help -- help
America's hard hats get back to work on big construction projects.
If there is concern like I know there is about our fellow citizens, concern
here in Washington about people being able to find work, the Congress can help
by passing a terrorism insurance bill now. (Applause.)
We have been talking about this up here for a year. And our workers cannot wait
any longer. And so my call on the Congress is to reach an agreement by tomorrow.
So by the time they go home, I can sign a bill -- a bill which will increase
our job base by the thousands.
I want to thank the business leaders who are here who see the crying need for
a terrorism insurance bill. I want to thank the carpenter union members who
stand behind me who are here to represent the fellow members of their unions
who, if they're not working, want to work, people that are putting bread on
the table for their families.
I want to thank the members of the International Association of Bridge, Structural,
Ornamental, and Reinforcing Ironworkers for coming here as well. We've been
working with their leaders to try to convince Congress to move this important
piece of legislation. This is a jobs bill. It's important for our country.
After September the 11th, it's important for our fellow citizens to understand
that many insurance companies stopped covering builders and real estate owners
against the risk of terrorist attacks. One of the effects of the attack of September
the 11th, 2001, was a lot of folks couldn't find insurance. Many of those who
provide coverage provide only limited coverage at high rates, with too many
restrictions to provide real security.
Congress's inaction on terrorism is threatening our jobs. They can move, and
need to, to help the economy. Because, you see, one recent survey shows that
more than $15 billion in real estate transactions have been terminated or put
on hold because the lack of terrorism insurance -- $15 billion of job-creating
projects are not moving forward.
More than 300,000 jobs are on hold. That's a lot of folks. That's a lot of joiners
and bricklayers and plumbers and other building professionals who can find good-paying
work. Construction jobs are at a three-year low, as non-residential construction
is down more than 15 percent from a year ago. The fact that there is no terrorism
insurance is affecting commerce and job creation.
Last week the bond raters at Moody's downgraded $4.5 billion worth of commercial
mortgage-backed securities because of the lack of available terrorism insurance.
Congress has failed to act. Congress has got to act -- now, before they go home.
They've got to get a bill to my desk tomorrow, for the sake of creditworthiness
One of the buildings affected, believe it or not, is Rockefeller Center, right
there in Manhattan, which as of Tuesday has very little terrorism insurance.
So Rockefeller Center will get a bad credit rating because we haven't acted
here in Washington, D.C. Lower security ratings affect people who have money
in the bond market. That includes pension funds, including the funds of many
public service employees -- like teachers and police and firefighters. See,
when the bond ratings go down, bond prices fall and workers' retirement savings
are threatened. That's one of the effects of the failure to have terrorism insurance
here out of Washington, D.C.
The problem of finding terrorism insurance is widespread, it's just not isolated
to New York City. We're talking about $15 billion worth of projects on hold,
we're talking about $15 billion worth of projects all across America -- not
just where the terrorists hit. The building and owners -- Building Owners and
Managers Association found that more than a quarter of the owners in their survey
could not get terrorism insurance at any cost. Of the owners who could get insurance,
80 percent of them faced caps on their coverage, higher deductibles, quick cancellation
clauses, exclusions for chemical and biological attacks, or premium increases
that ranged from 20 to 200 percent.
These costs, which are in the billions, get eventually passed on. We pay for
them. Right now, hospitals and office buildings and malls and museums and many
transportation companies are all having difficulty finding terrorism coverage.
Without coverage, the economic impact of another terrorist attack would be incredibly
serious. We could face a string of bankruptcies and loan defaults and lay-offs
that would intensify the economic effects of an attack. Enacting terrorism insurance
will cost us nothing if we experience no further attacks.
And you need to know your federal government is doing everything we possibly
can do so that we experience no further attacks. We're tightening up the homeland
security, and I want the Senate to give me a good bill on homeland security.
And we're chasing these killers down, one person at a time, to protect the homeland.
Yet, if there is an attack, without insurance it would be even more devastating
than the last attack. It will mean tens of thousands of new jobs if we can get
a terrorism insurance bill. It will mean billions in new investment. It will
mean healthier pension and retirement systems. If we have terrorism insurance,
and God forbid we have another attack on America, we will be able to compensate
our victims more quickly and limit the economic damage. That's a reality.
Congress must get it done. I want to remind them that the House passed a terrorism
insurance bill last November, and the Senate got one done in June. Under the
legislation, private insurance would pay for damages up to a certain amount.
The federal government would guarantee against catastrophic losses. I support
that concept, for the reasons I've just described.
Major construction programs will go forward if we can get a good piece of legislation.
Their friends will be working. The country will be more confident if we can
get a good bill. Our markets will be reassured. It's an incredibly important
piece of legislation. I met with members of both parties in both Houses this
week. I told them essentially what I've described to you, the need to get something
done. I believe they are close to an agreement. I know that they can come together.
And they ought to resolve the issue of liability, as well. My position, I think,
reflects the position of most Americans, and it's this: that we should prevent
the victims of a terrorist attack from being held liable for punitive damages,
which are damages over and above the amount needed to compensate the injured
When an American business has been targeted for a terrorist attack, we should
not further punish it and the people it employees, subjecting it to predatory
lawsuits and punitive damages. Congress needs to hear that message.
This provision was agreed to by a bipartisan group in the Senate last fall.
They have come together on it before. It was prevented from going forward. That
must not happen again for the sake of our working people in America. The members
can decide at any moment to finalize the bill and send it to my desk; it's just
not that far away. My call for getting it done tomorrow is realistic, if people
could put their mind to it.
I know the members involved. I know they care deeply about the future of our
country. See, this isn't a political issue; this is a jobs issue. I know they
care and I know they can get it done. And, for the sake of economic security,
they must get it done. For the sake of good, hardworking Americans, they need
to resolve their differences quickly and get me to the desk. (Applause.)
I want to -- I want to thank you all for coming. I want to assure you that we
are making progress on a lot of fronts, most notably on securing the homeland.
Now that I've got you stuck here -- (laughter) -- I want you to understand this
is a different kind of war that we fight. See, in the old days you could measure
progress by saying, well, we've destroyed X tanks or Y airplanes or sunk several
ships. That's not the kind of war this nation now fights. We fight a war against
cold-blooded killers who hide in caves and send youngsters to their suicidal
death. They do so because -- and they hate us because we love freedom. See,
they hate for what we love. We love our freedoms, and we're not going to relinquish
our freedoms. And the stronger we hold on to our freedoms the more they hate
And so we've got to button up our homeland. And I spoke to that earlier today.
You'll hear the debate about homeland security. The Congress -- some in the
Congress want to take away some of the powers that every President has had to
be able to more securely affect, in this case homeland security. I'm not going
to let them do that. It just doesn't make any sense not to have managerial --
the managerial ability to move the right people to the right place at the right
time to protect America. And I insist that that happen.
But the best way to protect the homeland is to find these killers. And that's
exactly what our country is doing, one person at a time. It's like an international
manhunt. And we're making progress.
The reason I want to talk to you real quick is because I want you to understand
that we are making progress on making America more secure. We -- that is, a
coalition of like-minded nations -- have hauled in over a thousand, couple of
thousand of these people. One fellow popped his head up the other day, bin al-Shebh,
and he's no longer a threat because he has been detained. See, the doctrine
that says, either you're with us or with the enemy, still holds. It's an important
doctrine. It's as important today as it was 13 months ago. And a like number
of those folks weren't quite as lucky. They're not around to hurt us, either,
but for different reasons. We're dismantling the terrorist network, which hates
America, one person at a time.
And if you've got a relative in the military, you need to know I've got a lot
of confidence in our folks who wear the uniform. And I want to thank you for
I asked the Congress to pass a defense bill which says if our troops go into
harm's way, they deserve the best pay, the best training, and the best possible
equipment. I have yet to see the defense bill. And not only do I want to see
a terrorism insurance bill before they go home, I want to see a defense bill
on my desk before they go home, as well. We owe that to our soldiers. We owe
it to the soldiers' families, and we owe it to the world for them to hear that
no matter how long it takes, no matter how long it takes to defend our freedom
and defend civilization itself, the United States of America will stay the course.
See, we love freedom, and we're not going to relinquish that love. And the war
on terror extends beyond just a terrorist network. The war on terror extends
to the world's worst leaders, which have and want to develop and hurt us and
our friends and allies with the world's worst weapons. We must not allow these
people -- this guy, Saddam Hussein -- to continue to defy the world. He has
said he would disarm. I have called upon the United Nations to disarm him. I
have given this body a chance to show the world whether they will be the United
Nations, an effective body, or the League of Nations. And I don't believe we
can afford to have a League of Nations again. And I want them to be effective,
I want it to work.
There is a coalition of friends that are joining us to call upon accountability
-- accountability with Mr. Saddam Hussein, who lies, kills his own people, poisons
his own citizens with weapons of mass destruction, who hates America, hates
Israel, hates our friends and allies. He must be held to account. The choice
is his, and the choice is the United Nations' to deal with this man, to hold
him to account. And if they won't, for the sake of our freedoms and our securities,
we cannot allow the world's worst leader to hold us hostage and to harm America
with the world's worst weapons. We owe it to our children.
The war on terror is more than just al Qaeda. And I believe we can achieve peace
by speaking clearly, by delineating good and evil, by talking about terror and
its effects, and by leading -- by leading people who understand the stakes.
And so out of the evil done to this country, I believe there's going to come
some incredible good, and that's peace. I long for peace for America. I want
to be able to say that history has called us to action, and we left the world
more peaceful for our children.
But I believe by remaining strong, we can leave a legacy of peace in other parts
of the world, too. I believe peace is possible in the Middle East, if we're
tough and determined, and delineate good from evil, and fight terror at all
costs. And I believe we can achieve peace in South Asia.
No, the enemy hit us, but they didn't know who we were hitting. They probably
thought we'd file a lawsuit or two. (Laughter.) But instead, they found a nation
which is strong and determined, a nation which will stick to our values, a nation
which is a compassionate nation, as well.
Listen, thank you all for coming. I appreciate the chance to -- God bless. (Applause.)