NU Online News Service, Aug. 3, 2:09 p.m. EST
WASHINGTON—The Senate refused late Tuesday to push through legislation extending the current version of the National Flood Insurance Program through Dec. 31.
The Senate also adjourned today without taking up legislation drafted by the leadership of the Senate Banking Committee that is substantively different than that passed by the House in July. A markup of the Senate bill had been scheduled for Thursday.
Industry officials voiced deep concern over the lack of action in the Senate.
Matt Gannon, assistant vice president of federal affairs for the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC), says that, “given the Senate’s track record, we are deeply concerned that another lapse or short-term extensions will perpetuate the uncertainty we’ve lived with for years now.”
“It may not be a headline-grabbing issue, but flood insurance reauthorization and reform is a vital necessity for our economy,” he adds. “Failing to resolve this issue will be a dereliction of duty by the U.S. Senate.”
Gannon says there will only be a few weeks in September for senators to move a bill through committee, hold a floor vote, and reconcile the differences with the House’s bill before the NFIP expires Sept. 30.
Ben McKay, senior vice president of federal government relations for the Property Casualty Insurers of America (PCI), says the trade association urges the Senate to “address a long-term NFIP reauthorization immediately upon their return next month.”
“More than 5.6 million American home and business owners rely on flood coverage," McKay adds.
Charles Symington, senior vice president of government affairs for the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America, says that while the group appreciates the work the Senate and House have done, “there may not be enough time left on the legislative calendar to get a reform bill through the Senate and reconciled with the House bill before the program's expiration on Sept 30.”
“We therefore urge Congress to quickly consider a short-term extension to avoid any marketplace disruption while allowing Congress to finalize their reform legislation," he continues.
The implication of the abortive action, led by Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, implies that short-term extension of the program is a virtual certainty, as Symington stated.
It also implies that the Senate will accept only a long-term reauthorization bill somewhat different than the one passed by the House in mid-July.
An extension would mark the ninth time Congress has moved to extend the current NFIP program since the original authorization ran out Sept. 30, 2008. The current authorization legislation passed Congress in 2003.
A Senate Banking Committee aide said Johnson introduced a “clean” three-month extension Tuesday. The bill was supported by Senate Democrats, but blocked by Republicans, the source says.
The way the “hotline,” an expedited procedure, works, the senators who object can remain anonymous.
Industry officials say a markup of draft legislation that would have reauthorized the NFIP until Sept. 30, 2016 was scheduled for Thursday but delayed until September when the Senate decided to leave today—after a bruising, tension-filled battle over raising the federal debt limit.
The Senate Banking aide confirmed that “the committee was on track to hold a bipartisan markup this week, but [since] the Senate went into recess early, that will have to happen soon after we return for the September work period.”