Despite strong opposition from at least 16 national veterans group and
asbestos victims everywhere, this past Friday the House of Representatives
voted 211-188 in favor of the Fairness in Class Action Litigation and
Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act, H.R. 1927 (FACT Act). This
is the third time a version of the FACT Act has been presented before
the House, but this time it was grouped with another piece of legislation
in the hopes that it would help it pass. A similar bill has been filed
in the Senate by Jeff Flake, a Republican from Arizona.
Even if the bill makes it through the Senate,
the White House has issued a statement stating it will veto the bill. “The Administration strongly opposes
House passage of H.R. 1927 because it would impair the enforcement of
important federal laws, constrain access to the courts, and needlessly
threaten the privacy of asbestos victims,” the White House said.
The bill is “based on the false assertion that there is endemic
fraud in the asbestos trust system.”
EWG Action Fund reports that bill sponsor Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, has accepted nearly
$240,000 in campaign contributions from political action committees established
by asbestos companies and their trade and lobby associations. In 2015,
a version of the bill passed out of the House Judiciary Committee by a
19-8 vote. EWG’s investigative research found that the 19 members
who voted for the bill have received approximately $3.3 million from asbestos
interest groups since 2010.
Thursday, the House received a letter from veteran groups claiming the
bill to be an
"offensive invasion of privacy to the men and women who have honorably
served." The letter continued,
"it does nothing to assure adequate compensation or prevent future
asbestos exposures and deaths."
Stars & Stripes reports that support for the bill from six Veterans groups was issued without
the approval of local Commanders. One of the groups, Vietnam Veterans
of America, pulled its support and apologized after learning that its
name was on a letter sent to House leaders in support of the bill.
Democrat Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, of California, ridiculed the legislation,
labeling it a ploy by big business to gain an advantage in asbestos suits.
"These provisions claim to serve transparency. Indeed, the representative's
efforts to support asbestos companies and intimidate victims could not
be more clear," she said.
If Rep. Farenthold truly wanted to protect veterans and asbestos victims
rights, he would be taking steps to ban asbestos in the U.S., not enacting
measures which benefit the companies who knew the dangers of asbestos
but continued to manufacture and distribute the deadly material for decades.