The Senate has approved a bill that would extend the soon-to-expire federal terrorism insurance program for seven years. The measure, passed Nov. 16 on a voice vote, next must be reconciled with a 15-year extension that the House cleared in September.

The House version drew a veto warning from the White House, but the Senate bill did not.

The federal program, which provides a financial "backstop" if terrorism-related insurance claims exceed certain thresholds, was established in 2002, as a response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It initially was authorized for three years, but in 2005, Congress extended it for two more years. Unless it is reauthorized again, the program will expire at the end of December.

Senate banking committee Chairman Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), who introduced the bill, said that it would help "to ensure that our nation is prepared to deal with future terrorist threats by making insurance available and affordable."

American Insurance Association President Marc Racicot welcomed the Senate vote and said, "A seven-year extension will provide more stability and certainty in the market and will foster long-term investment and economic growth."