WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., took to the U.S. Senate floor Thursday to ask for consideration of his legislation that would extend the National Flood Insurance Program for five years.
The program is currently scheduled to lapse after May 31.
Vitter said he is concerned Congress could cause a repeat of 2010, when the program lapsed multiple times for a total of 53 days.
“This is an important program for the country,” Vitter said. “The clock is ticking and that clock runs out May 31.”
Congress has sustained the flood insurance program by approving six-month extensions. Vitter also has now introduced a backup bill for another extension through December if he cannot get his legislation heard on the floor.
He blamed “our inability to, frankly, get our act together” in the Senate.
“We need to take the next step and not just hobble along,” Vitter said, arguing against the “Band-Aid approach” of temporary extensions.
The office of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
In the past, Reid has expressed a preference for moving the flood insurance reauthorization in a larger legislative package that includes other federal programs.
The program allows homeowners and businesses in flood zones that have trouble getting private insurance to obtain policies backed by the federal government.
About 500,000 people in Louisiana participate. The program has been in financial distress with a loss of $18 billion, mostly due to payments made after hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.
If the program lapses, current insurance policies remain in effect but applications cannot move forward.
Vitter said many real estate closings “came to a screeching halt” in 2010 when the program lapsed.
The U.S. House approved its version of reauthorization legislation in July on a 406-22 vote.
Vitter’s five-year reauthorization legislation was approved by the Senate Banking Committee in September.
“We need to get it on the Senate floor, pass it out of here and reconcile it with the House bill,” Vitter said Thursday. “Really, the only issue is getting time on the Senate floor.”
In February, Vitter and U.S. Sen. John Tester, D-Mont., sent a letter with 41 Senate co-signers to Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., urging consideration of the legislation.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., was not among those 41 signatures, but she supports getting the legislation to the U.S. Senate floor.
Copyright © 2011, Capital City Press LLC • 7290 Bluebonnet Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70810 • All Rights Reserved