January 18, 2006

Asbestos bill headed for Senate floor: analyst

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A bill to set up a $140 billion
liability fund for people harmed by exposure to asbestos could
come to the floor of the U.S. Senate for debate as soon as the
week of February 6, the Stanford Washington Research Group said
on Wednesday.

Citing sources, the firm said Senate Majority Leader Bill
Frist, a Tennessee Republican, told Nevada Democrat and
Minority Leader Harry Reid on Tuesday that he has the votes to
bring the bill to the floor.

Asbestos was widely used for insulation and fireproofing
until the 1970s. Scientists say inhaled fibers are linked to
cancer and other diseases.

But the multitude of injury claims, including some filed by
people who were exposed to the mineral but are not ill, have
pushed many U.S. companies into bankruptcy.

The fund would be paid for by asbestos defendant companies
and their insurers. Among the companies whose shares have been
closely linked to moves on the asbestos bill are W.R. Grace and
Co., Owens Corning and McDermott International Inc.