Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
July 31, 2014

Flood Insurance Bill Goes Back to Rewrite

Updated 1:29 p.m. | House Republican leaders announced Wednesday that a vote on a flood insurance bill would be put off until next week while members negotiate language that can pass the chamber.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., told his conference in a private meeting that he will work with Democrats in order to advance the measure. “We are moving it to next week to work on a few remaining technical issues,” he said, according to source in the room.

The bill was expected to come up on Thursday under suspension of the rules, meaning it would need a two-thirds majority vote to pass. But members coming out of the GOP meeting Wednesday morning said they did not think it had enough votes to clear that hurdle.

A GOP leadership aide said Democrats asked leaders to delay consideration of the bill to give them more time to explain it to their members to round up support in their caucus. On Tuesday, House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., confirmed his understanding that votes were at issue, adding that House Financial Services ranking member Maxine Waters, D-Calif., was closely involved in tweaking language.

“This measure remains a work in progress,” Waters said in a statement Wednesday. “We continue to work in good faith with Republican leadership to address a number of technical and substantive issues related to the legislation, with the ultimate goal of correcting the unintended consequences of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act. This could not be done overnight.”

Waters was a champion in 2012 of bipartisan legislation with then-Rep. Judy Biggert, R-Ill., dubbed the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, which reduced subsidies for homeowners to shore up the cash-strapped National Flood Insurance Program.

With flood insurance premiums now skyrocketing, however, lawmakers — particularly in flood-prone states and districts — are clamoring to revisit that law. The Senate last month passed legislation that would effectively halt implementation of Biggert-Waters for four years, but House Republican leaders said that measure was, for them, a non-starter.

On Tuesday evening, Rep. Michael G. Grimm, R-N.Y., insisted that truly bipartisan negotiations were under way on the new, House GOP leadership-blessed flood insurance bill.

“Literally, as we speak, minor edits are being made to the bill so that we can make this a truly bipartisan bill,” said Grimm, who is helping spearhead the effort, in a brief interview with CQ Roll Call. “I personally think, when this comes to the floor … people are going to be surprised that there’s going to be overwhelming support.”

Grimm named Waters and Reps. Gregory W. Meeks of New York and Cedric L. Richmond of Louisiana as Democrats at the negotiating table.

The fate of flood insurance legislation in the House hinges, however, on Republican support, too. The Club for Growth is launching a full-scale campaign to bring down the bill on grounds that it does not fully repeal the National Flood Insurance Program and that it reverts to a time when taxpayers fronted high costs for individuals’ insurance policies.

Seeking to appeal to conservative lawmakers in particular, Club for Growth President Chris Chocola released a statement on Wednesday afternoon praising House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, for his opposition to the flood insurance bill currently pending in the House.

“House Republican Leadership wants to stick taxpayers with the bill for higher subsidies to beach-front properties, but Congressman Hensarling took a principled stand,” said Chocola. “Hensarling has long advocated for reforming the Flood Insurance program, so it’s no surprise that GOP leaders are refusing to run the bill through his committee, and instead, are negotiating directly with the Democrats.

“Republicans in the House could learn a lot by following Congressman Hensarling’s lead when it comes to protecting taxpayers and increasing economic freedom,” Chocola said.

  • David L. Miller

    Why should taxpayers have to supplement or underwrite the cost of flood insurance? If someone decides to build in harm’s way, and harm’s way comes a knocking – LIVE with your decision, and don’t expect me to pay for your folly.

    • Jay Williams

      You don’t get it. People built or bought the where FEMA said is was not a flood zone or as high as FEMA told them to and now is remapping them into flood zones or changing their base flood elevations. If you have a mortgage, you are required to purchase flood insurane if you are put into a flood zone.

      • David L. Miller

        …and…? Buy the flood insurance. Don’t expect taxpayers to underwrite the cost. I do ‘get it’.

        • Jay Williams

          No you do not get it. The new maps are vastly inaccurate. I am an insurance agent with 34 years experience. I live and work in southeast Louisiana and Mississippi. Where I live the base flood was raised an average 6 feet affecting 90% of the City. None Of those homes are sellable because the flood insurancePremium for the new owner would be as the note on the mortgage. These are not repetative damaged homes.

          • David L. Miller

            What part of, I don’t want to subsidize ANYONE’s insurance, aren’t YOU getting?

          • Jay Williams

            No one is asking that you subsidize anyone else. The house bill pays for itself according to the CBO. The Biggart Waters 12 reform amounted to extorsion. The use of the term subsidized was is misnomer and only applies to a very small portion of the flood pool. You seem like a smart guy and should be able to grasp this!

          • David L. Miller

            As do you …. but if you trust professional politicians at this stage NOT stick it to the taxpayers, then I have a bridge (in a flood zone) that I’ll sell you.

          • Jay Williams

            If you want to discontinue National Flood Insurance and go back to disaster assistance as was done prior to 1970, I am OK with that. What I am not OK with is the fed requiring flood insurance on all properties they determine to be in a flood zone then cooking the books on the base flood elevations. Need proof, I got plenty!

          • David L. Miller

            Can’t argue in favor of those that would ‘change the rules’. And I have no problem with National Flood insurance, as long as the risk lies with the property owners, the insurers and re-insurers and not the taxpayer.

          • Layla

            Extortion shouldn’t be allowed, yet that is all we seem to be getting from the federal government on just about everything these days.

          • David L. Miller

            Don’t get me started on Obama being elected to the highest office in the land (twice). We now reside in a Banana Republic.

          • Layla

            We agree on that one, 100 percent.

          • Jason

            I was with you until this statement, lol. Congress passed this law (without doing their homework apparently). The president has almost little to say or do about the risks associated with flooding before the storm. Now he does have the ability to declare a federal disaster afterwards. This is the only thing that frees up additional resources for disasters. If he doesn’t do that, then the property owners are on their own. Hence the need for flood insurance before the storm.

          • Layla

            The stories coming from New Jersey are horrendous. Families that live miles from the shore are now in these new flood zones. It’s time for a new Congress, one that remembers what’s it’s like to survive out here.

          • Jason

            Hey is Colorado near the shore? Last I checked they were hundreds of mile inland and they were recently devastated by a flood. Sorry hon, but it can flood in other places besides the beach.

          • PJ

            the federal government does not “require” anyone to buy flood insurance. banks who issue mortgages do. big difference.
            can’t afford the fair market value of a premium? cancel your insurance, or move
            problem solved

          • Layla

            Hope you don’t have to. Is this more of that Obama Hope and Change?

          • Jason

            Sorry but this is the problem. The federal government does not require you to pay flood insurance. It is the lender of the federally backed mortgage that requires you to. You do so to protect their investment in your property. And the lenders/insurers are in bed together. Insurers make insane commissions and put the onus on the property owner to prove they have a reduced risk. Even when you prove you have a reduced risk by a LOMR, LOMA, or elevation certificate, the insurer gets to keep that commission they’ve already forced out of you. No one at FEMA is making you get flood insurance.

          • Layla

            Mr. Miller, the premiums are more than the worth of the homes. NOW DO YOU GET IT?

          • David L. Miller

            I’ve understood that from the beginning.

          • Layla

            You’ve understood that the premiums have jumped from $1,000 annually to $27,000 annually and this now applies to homes miles from the coast? I guess extortion pays well under the Obama Administration.

          • PJ

            who cares. don’t like it? cancel your policy

          • Jay Williams

            Its not so easy. Most banks and mortgage companies are backed by the federal government which requires all properties within a designated flood zone carry flood insurance. Even if you do not have a mortgage, most homeowners insurance companies also require properties within a designated flood zone carry flood insurance in order to write homeowner coverage.

            If you end up on a flood zone and your home is below the new bade flood elevation, you will likely not be able to sell because the cosy of the flood insurance might be higher than a mortgage for any prospective buyer.

          • PJ

            well, them’s the breaks. taxpayers in Mont. should not be forced to subsidize an individual’s economically irrational decision to build a home on a flood plain. problem is only going to get worse as the seas rise. if you want a phase-in period, say 25% per year for four years, ok, i would agree to that. but not more socialism like the old flood insurance program

          • Jay Williams

            I did a Google search. Seems you got natural disasters in Montana as well. Glad to hear you aren’t worried about flooding. Good luck!

          • Layla

            I have some bad news for you, PJ. FEMA has named new flood areas in all 50 states. Nobody is asking you to subsidize anybody, but extortion used to be illegal.

          • Jason

            Extortion from the weak to cover the strong is not good either. Anywhere can flood. Of course there are flood zones in all 50 states. Flooding is the most costly disaster in the country. That’s why the government is involved. Insurers are here to make money, not protect you. The private insurers got out of it because there was no money to be made off of us. Go to NBC Investigations. Do you really want to supplement 1.2 million dollar homes on the coast? That is someone’s second or third home? I don’t think so.

          • Jason

            Developers should conduct hazard mitigation studies before they build. The homeowner assumes all the risks. If you can’t sell your home because you were duped by the developer, blame FEMA I guess?

          • Jason

            Reduce your risks. Elevate your home. Apply for a hazard mitigation grant. Get an elevation certificate. How about this: if you are buying a property don’t build or buy in the 1% annual chance flood zone.

          • Jason

            That’s laughable. Vastly inaccurate since say 34 years ago? And I’m sorry no one from Louisiana and Mississippi should be complaining about anything. Hurricane Katrina basically wiped out the NFIP and who received the majority of those claims? Yes those two states. And at that point those funds were used as supplemental funds for people who you guessed it, live on the coast or in New Orleans case below sea level. That’s the problem with the NFIP. When the disaster happens, you have more people making claims then that have payed into the pot. And essentially the taxpayers cover the cost. And insurance agents are the biggest offenders in these cases not the government. What’s not being stated is how much commission insurance agents make by selling the highest policy possible.

          • Jay Williams

            I admit that I do make a commission selling flood insurance. Same percentage or less than a standard homeowners policy. What is different with flood is that the adjusters get paid a percentage of the claim they adjust. That should change. What happened in Katrina was the failure of a levee system that was known to be a defective system. This failure is responsible for the majority of the NFIP deficit. The Corp of Engineers has acknowledged the failure and spent 19 billion on a new system. This was the Corps fault and the damages should be on the Corps books not FEMA. The new maps are computer generated based on catastrophe models that are not reliable. Every year we hear this will be a bad hurricane season. The last major hurricane to hit the mainland was Wilma in 2005. The old maps were based on historical data and more accurate.

      • Jason

        Flood zones change. Risk changes. NBC published an article last week that showed homes and condos destroyed in hurricane Ivan. What did the developer do? Come back and build five times more condos that are 5 times more expensive in the same spot. And FEMA hasn’t been around forever. People do not realize that technology has changed. You can make a more accurate map today than what was produced in 1968 or even 1988. If you are remapped in a flood zone there are options YOU can take to reduce your risk.

    • Jason

      Exactly David. The fact of the matter is if you’re not paying flood insurance and the disaster happens, you have to depend on FEMA/NFIP to bail you out and that is essentially taxpayer funded relief.

  • jules123

    Taxpayers don’t. The NFIP has collected $6 billion more in premium than it has paid in claims. Years of mismanagement by FEMA and upwards of 44% of premiums going to private companies for fees and commissions are the reason the program is in debt.

  • Layla

    Congress is showing it’s own ignorance and exposing the fact that they don’t keep up with this stuff. Take a look at a current FEMA map. They have included flood zones from “sea to shining sea” and everything in between. This is no longer a matter only effecting those in coastal areas. Every state will be affected.

    Under current law, homeowners are facing flood insurance in the range of $27,000 per year in New Jersey. They’ll have to run for Congress in order to make enough to be able to afford that annually. The rules also state flood insurance MUST BE CARRIED with a government loan and the property cannot be sold unless the insurance is paid.

    Nice job, Congress.

    • Jason

      Flood risks change over time. There is more development up and down stream. Back in the day, only low income housing was placed in these high risk zones. Now, everybody who has anything wants to have a second home on the lake or beach. These politicians aren’t doing this for the little people, their doing it for their county club buddies. And I’m sorry but flood insurance is tied to the property value and those in New Jersey are excessively high. Did you see what Super Storm Sandy did? Destroyed $700,000 dollar homes on the beach that would be worth $50,000 somewhere else. You have to pay to play unfortunately.

  • Hans Ohff

    Since liberty can only offer a history of proven success, along with supporting facts and logic, we must always be on guard against those who attack it in the name of this, that, or the other superstition du jour.

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