The chair of a subcommittee that had been slated to vote on the Further Asbestos Claim Transparency Act (FACT) has thankfully tabled the matter pending further discussion.
Our Boston mesothelioma attorneys know that this law is the culmination of powerful corporate lobbyists doing everything in their power to try to cut off or mitigate the claims brought against them by those they hurt: dedicated former employees, their wives and children, military veterans and even the general public.
This is their effort to deflect the blame. The fact that a measure that would try so hard to suppress the full scope of their actions should be called an act of “transparency” designed to reduce fraud is an insult to all those who have been devastated by this terminal disease. To call this bill “anti-victim” would be the understatement of the year.
In light of the backlash the measure has received, House Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) has decided to postpone a vote on the legislation until members can hear directly from some of those who had been diagnosed with mesothelioma. The move came on the morning a vote was to proceed in the House Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law.
The move was a bit surprising, given that the rest of the Republican majority members of the committee were insisting the vote be moved forward immediately. Bachus refused to cave in to his own party members’ demands.
It’s possible his motives were merely to save face, as numerous members of the opposing party had pointed out that the measure was supposed to be “for the victims,” and yet, not a single victim had been given the opportunity to testify prior to the vote.
In fact, at the most recent hearing prior to that one, Bachus reportedly highlighted the fact that at least two widows of mesothelioma victims were in the audience. Yet the subcommittee asked to hear from neither of those two women.
Additionally, three other widows had been specifically asked to attend the hearings, though none had been asked to testify. However, on the evening before the vote, when the widows learned the proceedings were rapidly progressing, they sent a rushed letter to the committee chair, chastising the committee members for overlooking them entirely.
They wrote feeling as if they were “invisible people.” The topic of discussion had centered on the very element that stole their husband’s lives and yet, everyone was given a chance to be heard except them. The women wrote that it was “starkly clear” that their experiences, heartache and and stories didn’t matter. It seemed as if their great losses didn’t matter.
Following this plea, they will be given the floor and the vote will be delayed another month. It’s troubling that even in spite of this appeal, so many House members were still eager to move on without hearing them. Before they cast their vote, those elected officials should ask themselves who they are really in that room to represent.
If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in New England, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.
House Republican delays vote on asbestos bill, March 20, 2013, By Megan R. Wilson, The Hill
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