Having failed several times to pass a $19 billion disaster aid bill with a federal flood insurance reauthorization provision by unanimous consent, the House of Representatives managed on Thursday to pass a separate two-week extension of the flood insurance program, which was set to expire Friday at midnight.
At about 4:30 p.m. in a fast-track unanimous consent vote, the House approved an extension of the National Flood Insurance Program until June 14, a reauthorization the Senate approved by voice vote last week.
The two-week reauthorization means the NFIP will be able to continue issuing flood insurance policies at least at the start of the hurricane season, which begins Saturday.
The Senate has already passed the $19 billion disaster aid bill that includes extending the flood insurance program until Sept. 30. However, this broader measure has been stymied by several Republican lawmakers taking advantage of a House rule that kills unanimous consent if a single member objects.
On Thursday, Rep. John Rose of Tenn. became the third Republican this week to object to the unanimous consent of the disaster aid, setting up the fast-track vote on the NFIP provision only.
“Today, I objected to passing a spending request of over $19 billion without members of Congress present in Washington,” said Rose. “It is of dire concern to me, as it should be to each member of Congress, that Speaker Pelosi is attempting to push through a $19.1 billion spending bill without any debate in Congress.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized the Republican moves to block the disaster aid bill. “Every day that House Republicans obstruct and delay, more American families are left to suffer,” she said.
The Democratic-controlled House is expected to pass the $19 billion disaster aid measure in a vote after it returns to session on June 3.
President Donald Trump has said he supports it.
Since 2017, Congress has approved 10 short-term extensions of the NFIP but has not been able to advance a long-term extension or reforms of the program that serves 5 million policyholders.
The National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies expressed disappointment that Congress could pass only a two-week extension and urged lawmakers to pass a long-term reauthorization.
“With the start of the 2019 hurricane season just days away, that Congress has been able to pass only a two-week extension of the NFIP is disheartening, as it needlessly creates uncertainty for policyholders across the nation,” said Jimi Grande, senior vice president of government affairs for NAMIC. “And as we have seen with the recent devastating flooding in the Midwest, the time has never been more critical for Congress to provide long-term stability for policyholders who have unfortunately been strung along from one short-term extension to the next.”
The Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (the Big “I”) voiced similar sentiments.
“The Big ‘I’ is relieved that Congress was finally able to extend the NFIP before the program expires on May 31. However, we are disappointed that the extension is only for two weeks,” said Charles Symington, Big “I” senior vice president of external, industry & government affairs. “Both chambers of Congress had previously passed legislation that would extend the NFIP through Sept. 30 in an overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion. Yet, brinksmanship from a few members of Congress brought us to the eve of an expiration and left more than five million policyholders and countless others who depend on the program with only a two-week extension of the NFIP. With historic flooding in the Midwest and hurricane season upon us, it is vital that Congress passes a longer-term extension of the program when it returns to session next week to provide more certainty for consumers.”
*This story ran previously in our sister publication Insurance Journal.