Although lobbyists on Capitol Hill remain optimistic that the asbestos liability malignancy can be resolved through legislation, it appears unlikely that the gaps in current talks toward an alternative dispute resolution mechanism for asbestos claims can be bridged this year.Indeed, even if the considerable differences between the private parties can be resolved, two key barriers remain toward a resolution: There's no sense that asbestos liability is a crisis, and, given the optimism Democrats have for winning the White House this fall, they appear unlikely to allow Republicans to take credit for major legislation that the Senate Republican legislation leadership is already dubbing a "jobs creation" bill.

On that front, Senate Majority leader William Frist, R-Tenn., says he will introduce an asbestos liability bill sometime in March. However, the parties that have been grappling in Congress over asbestos believe a more important decision coming in March is whether the Major Donor Group-the major property/casualty companies that have been funding the industry lobbying effort for the past two years-will agree to sustain funding for another year.

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