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House Passes Asbestos Industry Friendly FACT Act, Despite Opposition of Veterans

Worthington & CaronDespite 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.

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