The panel was moderated by IIABA CEO Robert A. Rusbuldt.
A highlight of the InfoXchange, the event featured candid political discourse on the potential war on Iraq , homeland security and the upcoming 2002 elections. The issue discussed most relevant to independent agents and brokers in attendance and the insurance industry was whether or not terrorism insurance legislation will be approved before Congress adjourns for the year.
Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard and co-host of FOX NewsChannel’s The Beltway Boys, and Shields, a nationally syndicated columnist and moderator of CNN’s The Capital Gang, generally agreed that the enactment of a terrorism insurance bill is unlikely.
“It is on life support right now, legislatively speaking,” Shields said. “Yes, the president does mention it … but George W. Bush has a dog with a bone on Iraq right now. There is nothing else on his plate other than Iraq . He is not going to make [terrorism insurance] a national issue.”
Barnes said, “There is one reason that terrorism insurance hasn’t passed the Congress. One reason, two words: trial lawyers. It is the same with the patients’ bill of rights. That would pass tomorrow if the trial lawyers would step aside. They are against both of them because they put limits on liability. They don’t want that. They have a wholly owned subsidiary that is working in both the House and the Senate, and that is the Democratic Party.”
Rusbuldt disagreed with the panelists saying that he believed a terrorism bill would be enacted in this Congress because “the President wants it and the economy needs it. The President will start twisting some arms in Congress real hard for this bill.”
Both Shields and Barnes believe that a homeland security bill will pass Congress before adjournment. “This is the dominant issue on the legislative agenda right now,” Shields said. “[Congress has] to fund the government by passing 13 appropriations bills and will vote on the okay to use force against Iraq . I think the third item they will address is homeland security, which basically means that health care, prescription drugs, patients’ bill of rights and all of that is pushed off and not addressed.”
Barnes said, “I think (homeland security) will probably pass in some form. I suspect the White House will have to yield on the question of civilian employees.”
Barnes and Shields sharply disagreed on the discretion of a war on Iraq .
“I don’t think there is willingness in this country to rush into war,” Shields said. “I am respectful of the President’s position … but I do think this country needs a full and complete debate before we go to war.”
Barnes said, “This is a new world that has been changed by Sept. 11. We know there are organized terrorists against us. … Mark is not recognizing the modern world. We are not going to have another World War II, Mark. We don’t fight wars now, given the incredible heightened technology of the weapons that we have, by sending in hundreds and hundreds of thousands of troops. That is not going to happen in Iraq .”
The panel also discussed the Middle East and judicial nominations and concluded with a brief overview of the 2002 elections. Both Shields and Barnes forecast a Democratic Senate and Republican House for the next Congress and project John Kerry as the likely Democratic presidential nominee in 2004.
The New Orleans InfoXchange, IIABA’s showcase meeting, featured an exclusive reception and lunch for Trusted ChoiceSM agencies and company/strategic partners; a compelling company CEO panel; a wide variety of innovative continuing-education classes; several prominent guest speakers; one of the largest exhibit halls in the insurance industry; numerous networking opportunities; and many other valuable events for agents and business owners.
Founded in 1896, IIABA is the nation’s oldest and largest national association of independent insurance agents and brokers, representing a network of more than 300,000 agents, brokers and their employees nationally. Its members are businesses that offer customers a choice of policies from a variety of insurance companies. Independent agents and brokers offer all lines of insurance—property, casualty, life and health—as well as employee benefit plans and retirement products. Web address: www.independentagent.com.