They may have voted for the package last year. But this year, as constituents react to the pain of sharp premium hikes, Senators and Congressional representatives are having second thoughts. Now, there's a move on Capitol Hill to put the brakes on the premium increases, and to reconsider the whole approach to fixing the troubled National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
The House of Representatives on June 5 approved an amendment to a Homeland Security funding bill that would put off the scheduled increases in flood insurance premiums for a year. The vote in favor of the amendment was lopsided (281-146), and included members who had voted for the last year's Biggert-Waters Act, the law that set the premium hikes in motion.
Even Maxine Waters, who co-authored last year's act, voted to postpone the rate increases, reports the New Orleans Times-Picayune ("House passes amendment to block huge hikes in flood insurance premiums," by Bruce Alpert). "Waters said she anticipated higher rates for some homeowners, but not the astronomical increases some homeowners are facing," the paper reports. "Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, told his colleagues that one South Louisiana homeowner reported his rates would jump from $365 a year to $28,000."
Acording to a story in the Baton Rouge Advocate ("U.S. House passes a delay to flood insurance rate increases," by Jordan Blum), Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, who sponsored the amendment delaying premium hikes for one-year complimented Waters for bringing Democrats around to vote for the measure. But Cassidy said the vote was a harder sell for Republican members, the paper reports: "GOP members had to be convinced that the flood insurance program is still on its way toward being more financially self-sustainable even with the amendment attached, he said."
The moratorium still has to pass the Senate, where Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu has become identified with the fight to hold off the rate increases. Landrieu said that the one-year reprieve in the Cassidy amendment isn't long enough. "But it's better than nothing," she said, "and we're going to build on that."
Lousiana's other Senator is also on the case, reports the Advocate: "Senator David Vitter also filed a new bill Thursday with Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., called the Responsible Implementation of Flood Insurance Reform Act, that would delay the period of phasing in rates, give flexibility for state and local governments to assist with subsidizing flood insurance, and 'reform' FEMA's flood-mapping procedures."