WASHINGTON (AP) – The government would cover up to $90 billion annually in insurance claims from future terrorist attacks under a compromise bill that began advancing through Congress yesterday as lawmakers sorted through their final stack of legislation for the year.

The terrorism insurance bill cleared a procedural hurdle in the House by voice vote after telephone calls by President Bush to Republican leaders in recent days broke a yearlong logjam. Bush says the bill would invigorate the drooping economy. To gain crucial Democratic support, he had to accept no limits on punitive damages, which many Republicans consider a boon to trial lawyers usually allied with Democrats.

“This legislation will put hardhats back to work, create construction jobs, improve the legal process and protect taxpayers,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

Shortly before the House swung into action, the Senate approved a bill aimed at thwarting terrorism at the country’s 361 seaports, which are considered especially vulnerable to such attacks. Senators voted 95-0 for legislation requiring ports to develop security plans, though the measure lacked most of the hundreds of millions or more that such safeguards would cost.

The activity came as the lame-duck 107th Congress tried squeezing out a last batch of bills before its end. The House was hoping to adjourn for the year Thursday night.

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