Push for National Flood Insurance Extension — with Reforms
Based on material provided by

As of Valentine's Day, Feb. 14th, 41 signatures had been secured on a letter from senators to the Senate leadership urging prompt action on legislation reauthorizing the National Flood Insurance Program.

At a press conference at the new Capitol Visitors’ Center, Senators John Tester (D-MT) and David Vitter (R-LA), the primary sponsors of the letter, said they would use the letter to persuade Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), the Majority Leader, and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) the Minority Leader, to put the NFIP long-term extension bill on the floor as soon as possible. Prompt action is needed because the current extension for the program ends May 31.

The current program has been operating on last minute extensions (with some breaks in the program) since September, 2008. As noted at the press conference by Charles Chamness, president and CEO of the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, the new flood season begins June 1, the day after the program expires.

Senator Tester acknowledges that support for the bill is not the holdup; the holdup is that Senator Reid is concerned that Senator McConnell will seek to use the "must-do bill" to push through controversial provisions opposed by Senate Democrats.

“Senator Vitter and I are very well aware that that this possibility exists on all bills, and we will have to work hard to ensure that the bill remains as narrow as possible,” Tester explained. Vitter added: “For no good reason, the NFIP was shut down for 53 days in 2010” because an extension to the program ran out. As a result, over 1,400 home closings were either cancelled or postponed. (He was citing data provided by the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.) According to officials, in 2010, the NFIP lapsed four times and flood coverage could not be purchased or renewed for a total of 53 days.

Senator Vitter says Congress “must take the next step and pass legislation providing a long-term reauthorization of the program” before May 31. Also attending the meeting were officials of the Heartland Institute, the National Wildlife Federation, American Insurance Association, Taxpayers for Common Sense, American Rivers, NAMIC and RAA. All are supporting the effort to have the Senate act promptly on reauthorization legislation.

The Senate bill has no name. The House bill, H.R. 1309, the “Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2011,” passed last July by an overwhelming majority. The bill, sponsored by Representative Judy Biggert, (R-IL), would, among other provisions, extend the NFIP until Sept. 30, 2016. The Senate Banking Committee moved a similar bill "to the floor" in early September 2011. However, floor action has been pending since then. The letter was written to encourage movement on the reauthorization prior to the May 31st deadline.