House Poised to Pass Flood Insurance Change Backed by Realtors

March 4, 2014 by Derek Wallbank and James Rowley

The U.S. House will have enough votes to pass flood-insurance legislation following last-minute changes to give more coastal property owners a break from rate increases, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said.

“I believe that it will pass handily,” the Maryland Democrat told reporters. The House plans to take up the bill later today.

Coastal-state lawmakers—backed by banking, homebuilding and real estate groups—say their constituents need relief from premium increases enacted two years ago to address the National Flood Insurance Program’s $24 billion debt. Small-government groups say the bill is the latest example of the difficulty in enacting meaningful cuts in federal spending.

Some lawmakers contend the 2012 changes went too far and would make it tough, if not impossible, for some homeowners to pay premiums or sell their houses.

The law is “punishing thousands of middle-class families who acted responsibly, followed the rules and built back to FEMA’s codes after Hurricane Katrina,” Mississippi Republican Steven Palazzo said in a statement.

Other Republicans said they don’t want to roll back the 2012 changes that make property owners in flood-prone areas pay more of the cost of insuring their homes against water damage.

House leaders revised the bill, H.R. 3370, to attract Democratic votes. The compromise negotiated by Republican leaders and Maxine Waters of California, the top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, would limit premium increases to 18 percent.

Heritage Action

The small-government groups Club for Growth and Heritage Action for America urged lawmakers to vote against the bill.

“Unfortunately, this shows that House leadership is uncommitted to the limited government reforms that they themselves supported just two years ago,” said a statement by Club for Growth.

The House will consider the bill under an expedited procedure that requires two-thirds of those present to pass. Leaders of the Republican-controlled House may need support from at least 110 Democrats.