Senate will finally vote next month on flood reform

by R.J. Lehmann on May 24, 2012 · View Comments

The U.S. Senate will approve a 60-day extension of the National Flood Insurance Program this week before moving on to a vote on a full five-year reauthorization of the NFIP, under a deal struck late May 23 between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. David Vitter, R-La.

Vitter and Reid announced the deal on the Senate floor, including a commitment to vote on the full NFIP reform bill prior to the July 4 recess. As part of the agreement, Vitter will withdraw his motion to attach NFIP reform as an amendment to an FDA reform bill. Reid is seeking a unanimous consent vote today on a 60-day extension. Without an extension, the NFIP is scheduled to expire May 31.

“The National Flood Insurance Program has been barely hobbling along with a Band-Aid approach – extending it for short periods of time. Reaching an agreement to allow the Senate to fully debate this on the floor and to work on getting it reauthorized for five years will be great, much needed news for homeowners and the housing market,” Vitter said in a statement. “Moving the ball forward on this is a big, big step, especially as we approach hurricane season.”

Along with Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., Vitter has been the Senate’s strongest advocate of NFIP reform. The pair co-sponsored legislation – cleared by the Senate Banking Committee in September 2011 – that would phase out subsidized NFIP premiums for repetitive loss property, second homes and businesses, while also requiring it to build a catastrophe reserve and permitting FEMA to buy private reinsurance or issue catastrophe bonds to shore up the program.

The program remains about $18 billion in debt, largely from a catastrophic level of claims following 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.

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