Axios Pro Exclusive Content

Sheldon shrugs at insurance walk-back

Mar 11, 2024
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse

Whitehouse in January. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Getty Images

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse insists he'll proceed with his own investigations after the Biden administration reversed its plans for climate oversight of the property insurance market.

Why it matters: Whitehouse is going to keep being Whitehouse — to insurers' dismay — as the Senate Budget chair is increasingly emboldened to use his power to conduct oversight.

  • Still, this news may increase the onus on the senator to have a clear work product at the end of his investigating.

Driving the news: The Treasury Department has backed off from its plans to directly compel insurers to provide ZIP code-level data on property risks from climate change.

  • Treasury instead will collaborate with state insurance regulators and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
  • If you missed this bombshell, that's because it dropped in the middle of the SOTU news cycle.

Environmentalists are fretting over the decision, which comes after wide-ranging industry pushback against the more aggressive approach. (Remember this?)

  • House Republicans have gone so far as to suggest axing the Treasury insurance office in response to the probe.

Zoom in: This decision could wind up empowering Whitehouse, who's conducting his own investigations into the insurance industry's deepening climate woes.

  • His probes are quite different from Treasury's work at the granular level. For example, he wants documents and answers to specific questions, not ZIP code-level data.

What they're saying: Whitehouse responded to Treasury's decision in a statement to Axios saying he'll "see these investigations through."

  • "What's at stake … is a 2008-style economic shock — this time driven by climate change and, unlike in 2008, with no prospect of property values rebounding," the senator said.

What's next: A source familiar with the senator's investigations told Axios that the probe is "ongoing and may lead to additional hearings" or a report "detailing climate-related risks to frontline markets."

Go deeper