WASHINGTON, D.C., April 30, 2009 - House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) today addressed the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers (the Big “I”) during the Big “I” Legislative Conference & Convention Breakfast. Attendees heard from the legislators before heading to Capitol Hill to lobby members of the House, Senate and their staffs on issues that directly impact independent agents and consumers.
Robert Rusbuldt, Big “I” president & CEO, said Cantor has “emerged as the face of the Republican Party” and that “he is truly a defender of Main Street America.” In addition to his position as the House Republican Whip, Cantor serves on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, which has direct jurisdiction over taxes, trade, Social Security, Medicare, health care and welfare reform.
Cantor thanked the agents for taking time away from their businesses “to come to Washington to offer some plain ole’ common sense to this town.” In his analysis of the economy and related battles on Capitol Hill, Cantor said, “No question, we are at a cross roads in this country…If you do the math, about 15 people a minute are losing their jobs…When we’re looking at this economy, it makes no sense to me to penalize the job makers. We ought to be helping small businesses right now, not imposing more burdens on them.”
Cantor addressed the regulatory outlook and said “the desire and the attempt to over-regulate is very real.” On health care, Cantor said “it is the centrality of the doctor/patient relationship that must drive health care reform.”
Rusbuldt praised Tester’s work on behalf of small businesses, noting “he truly puts his country and his state of Montana above party politics.” Tester serves on the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, which has jurisdiction over insurance issues, and is a key player on the committee’s Subcommittee on Securities, Insurance and Investment. Additionally, he serves on the powerful Appropriations Committee.
Tester also addressed the economic crisis and compared it to dealing with the threat of drought as a farmer. “We know that a drought will be followed by moisture,” he said, emphasizing that he is optimistic that the economy will turn around.
Tester said that he believes in state regulation of the insurance. “Having served [as a legislator] at the state level, I believe insurance regulation should be handled at that level, just as it has been for the last 140 years,” he said.
Tester also said “for the financial markets, we need to put the referees back on the court.” Tester, who used to be a basketball referee, also said that “the best ref is the one who did his job and no one noticed. I was the person who set the ground rules so that all the players knew the game would be played fairly.” The senator also added that, “We need to put middle class families and small business ahead of Wall Street CEOs.”
He also reiterated his support for the renewal of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and crop insurance.
“Rep. Cantor is a rising star in the Republican Party and in just two years in the Senate, Sen. Tester is already on important legislative priorities to the Big ‘I’,” says Charles E. Symington, Jr., Big “I” senior vice president for government affairs. “It is encouraging to independent agents to have young, energetic leaders from both sides of the aisle kick off our agent lobbying effort on Capitol Hill.”
Highlights of the Big “I” Legislative Conference for Friday, May 1 include a panel discussion with top insurance carrier CEOs, a state of the association address by Big “I” chairman Brett Nilsson and a keynote address by “Freakonomics” author Stephen Dubner.
Founded in 1896, the Big “I” 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, health, employee benefit plans and retirement products. Web address: www.independentagent.com.