WASHINGTON – The Senate’s plans to vote as soon as today a bipartisan, credit union-backed bill to reauthorize the federally subsidized flood insurance program for another five years could be held up indefinitely while Senate leaders deal with an attempt by one Republican to add an anti-abortion provision to the bill.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Tuesday said a Republican senator is insisting on a vote on an amendment defining “when life begins.” Reid did not name the senator, but it was Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who had offered the amendment.
“I think some of this stuff is just – I have been very patient working with my Republican colleagues in allowing relevant amendments on issues, and sometimes we even do non-relevant amendments,” said Reid during a Tuesday news conference. “But really, on flood insurance?”
“After all the work that’s been put on this bill, this is ridiculous that somebody says ‘I’m not going to let this bill go forward unless I have a vote on when life begins,’” Reid continued. “I am not going to do that, and I think I speak for the majority of senators.”
Calling the request “outlandish,” Reid said he was told of Paul’s demands on Monday night.
Paul responded to reporters Tuesday: “I think the people who believe in protecting life would like to see a vote.”
Credit unions support passage of the flood insurance bill, which would increase premiums on vacation homes and commercial properties in flood zones to help trim the cost of the federal subsidy. The increase in premiums, by as much as a doubling, is projected to save the program $4.7 billion by 2012.
In a letter to Senate leaders yesterday, NAFCU Chief Lobbyist Dan Berger urged Senate passage of the bill. “With the NFIP currently operating on a short-term extension scheduled to expire at the end of next month, NAFCU appreciates the urgency with which the Senate is acting to prevent this vital program from lapsing,” wrote Berger. “Often times during lapse periods, credit unions are required to keep up with notices to members about flood insurance requirements, but the NFIP is unable to approve new policies and coverage increases. This high level of uncertainty leaves millions of American families who rely on flood insurance in limbo.”
Flood insurance is required for all credit unions and banks for government-backed mortgages on property in flood zones.
The program has had 17 short-term extensions and will expire on July 30 without congressional action.
NFIP is the sole underwriter of flood insurance in the country. Lenders, real estate agents, homeowners, insurance providers and the construction industry have been pushing for a long-term bill. The program remains deep in debt from Hurricane Katrina.