[JURIST] US senators voted 98-1 [Senate roll call] late Tuesday in favor of allowing debate to proceed on a controversial asbestos bill that would supplant asbestos-related litigation with claims against a $140 billion compensation fund. Asbestos-injured workers and their families would be eligible to receive anywhere from $25,000 to $1.1 million in compensation, with attorney fees capped at 5% of the total award.
Support for officially bringing the Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act [PDF] to the floor became overwhelming after Democratic Senate Minority leader Sen. Harry Reid, an opponent of the measure, withdrew his previous objection to a full debate [floor remarks; JURIST report] and encouraged colleagues to let the legislation get a full airing. The bill is co-sponsored [floor remarks] by fellow Democrat and ranking Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Patrick Leahy. Formal debate on the measure is expected to begin Wednesday. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist provides additional background material on the bill. Reuters has more.