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Asbestos bill on hold until it's filibuster-proof

[JURIST] US Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) [official website] said Friday that he would not allow any further floor debate on the controversial asbestos compensation bill [PDF text; bill summary; JURIST news archive] unless 60 senators pledged their support for the legislation in order to head off a possible filibuster. On Tuesday Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) [official website] raised an objection to the proposed law, arguing that it violated Senate budgetary rules. The Senate effectively agreed to close debate on the matter [Senate roll call] by failing to agree to exempt the bill from the objection.

If enacted, the asbestos bill would remove all asbestos injury claims from the courts, and would instead pay plaintiffs from a $140 billion private fund financed by defendant asbestos companies and their insurers. Earlier this week bill co-sponsor Sen. Arlen Specter said that despite the earlier vote on the objection, the bill was "very much alive" [Reuters report]. Reuters has more.

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