Amid signs that the compromise might fail, efforts to pass asbestos victims’ compensation legislation (S-852) were overtaken last month by the Senate’s battle over President Bush’s judicial nominations. The asbestos legislation and the judicial nominations are centered in the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Pennsylvania Republican Arlen Specter.

In a clear indication that opposition to the bill is mounting, Specter wrote an op-ed in the May 16 edition of the New York Times complaining about a 15-state radio advertising campaign, conducted by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, a fellow Republican, that attacks the bill. Asserting that “Mr. Armey knows better,” Specter wrote that the ad campaign is “misleading” and that Armey, “is just another lobbyist spreading disinformation.”

Specter had hoped to get the bill out of his committee before the crisis surrounding the President’s judicial nominations came to a head. However, the impending crisis over the nominations swept up all Senate attention in the week leading up to the May 24 deadline. At the last minute, a compromise was reached, and the nomination battle dissipated.

Though work on other legislation, including the asbestos compensation bill, was delayed by the judicial battle, it is unclear how the success in achieving compromise on the judges may affect debate on other bills. While the fight over judicial nominations was a partisan one, the struggle for a compromise on asbestos cuts across party lines, reflecting more fundamental differences between powerful forces in the American economy (see LIFELINES ONLINE, May, 2005).

[Steve Clark]