House GOP in a Fix Over Fixing Flood Insurance

Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) (R) listens during a news conference on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the U.S. Capitol on March 31, 2011 in Washington, DC.
National Journal
Billy House
Add to Briefcase
Billy House
Feb. 26, 2014, 8:20 a.m.

House lead­ers — awash in in­de­cision over how to ad­dress dra­mat­ic hikes to fed­er­al flood-in­sur­ance premi­ums dur­ing a midterm elec­tion year — ab­ruptly post­poned a Thursday vote on a bill be­cause of a lack of sup­port.

Some rank-and-file Re­pub­lic­ans had ex­pressed con­fid­ence as late as Tues­day night that the bill emer­ging in talks with Demo­crats would be ac­ted on this week — only to be told by Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Eric Can­tor dur­ing a closed-door ses­sion Wed­nes­day morn­ing that the vote is be­ing put off.

The de­vel­op­ment vividly un­der­scores how fed­er­al flood in­sur­ance — and the need to fix it — blurs the lines between tea-party and con­ser­vat­ive fisc­al polit­ics and the needs and de­mands of con­stitu­ents.

Even some mem­bers of the 40 or so usu­al “hell no” caucus — in­clud­ing many who re­fused to go along with pay­ing for Su­per­storm Sandy dam­age else­where in the coun­try — are plead­ing with Speak­er John Boehner and oth­er GOP lead­ers to take ac­tion to ad­dress the rising premi­ums be­cause of pres­sure from their dis­tricts. Even if that means un­do­ing some re­cently en­acted fisc­al re­forms to bring the pro­gram out of $24 bil­lion in red ink.

What to do was a fo­cus of a meet­ing be­ing held early Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon by the con­ser­vat­ive Re­pub­lic­an Study Com­mit­tee, a group of 175 House mem­bers.

Adding to the pres­sure, though, is that there have been warn­ings by out­side con­ser­vat­ive groups Her­it­age Ac­tion and Club for Growth that they op­pose the bill that was emer­ging this week in talks with House Demo­crats — and that they would in­clude the vote on their le­gis­lat­ive score­cards.

And some key House chair­men are also said to have more-privately pressed ob­jec­tions to that bill, ar­guing that re­cently en­acted fisc­al re­forms would be gut­ted.

The Club for Growth, in a news re­lease later Wed­nes­day, even singled out Fin­an­cial Ser­vices Com­mit­tee Chair­man Jeb Hensarling for praise in op­pos­ing the bill, which it said would un­wind and partly re­peal the much-needed re­forms en­acted in 2012.

“House Re­pub­lic­an lead­er­ship wants to stick tax­pay­ers with the bill for high­er sub­sidies to beach­front prop­er­ties, but Con­gress­man Hensarling took a prin­cipled stand,” said Club for Growth Pres­id­ent Chris Chocola.

“As the House Fin­an­cial Ser­vices Com­mit­tee chair­man, Con­gress­man Hensarling has long ad­voc­ated for re­form­ing the flood in­sur­ance pro­gram, so it’s no sur­prise that GOP lead­ers are re­fus­ing to run the bill through his com­mit­tee, and in­stead, are ne­go­ti­at­ing dir­ectly with the Demo­crats,” the state­ment ad­ded. “Re­pub­lic­ans in the House could learn a lot by fol­low­ing Con­gress­man Hensarling’s lead when it comes to pro­tect­ing tax­pay­ers and in­creas­ing eco­nom­ic free­dom.”

There was no im­me­di­ate com­ment from Boehner or Can­tor’s of­fice.

Mean­while, Rep. Bill Cas­sidy, R-La., who is run­ning for a Sen­ate seat and has po­si­tioned him­self as a lead­er in the ef­fort, down­played the delay. He said he re­mains con­fid­ent the bill will soon move for­ward and that “this is an op­por­tun­ity to put good policy be­fore polit­ics.”

“We are di­li­gently work­ing on im­prove­ments to the bill that the Sen­ate al­tern­at­ive le­gis­la­tion failed to ad­dress. We have care­fully built a co­ali­tion and draf­ted a sol­id pro­pos­al that has garnered wide­spread sup­port. Now, small changes are be­ing made to en­sure pas­sage of the bill and to en­sure FEMA im­ple­ments it cor­rectly,” Cas­sidy said.

At is­sue are pro­vi­sions of a 2012 bill co­sponsored by Rep. Max­ine Wa­ters — the rank­ing Demo­crat on the Fin­an­cial Ser­vices Com­mit­tee — and former Rep. Judy Big­gert, R-Ill. The meas­ure, passed against the back­drop of a long-term budget­ary crisis, ad­jus­ted the rate maps of the Na­tion­al Flood In­sur­ance Pro­gram and made oth­er changes de­signed to fix the pro­gram that is tens of bil­lions of dol­lars in debt (now $24 bil­lion).

But what’s en­sued are huge spikes in some flood-in­sur­ance premi­ums in coastal states like Louisi­ana, Flor­ida, and Con­necti­c­ut, and what some loc­al gov­ern­ments say has been a para­lys­is in their real-es­tate mar­kets.

The Sen­ate has already passed a bill that would out­right delay the Big­gert-Wa­ters Act’s ad­just­ments to rate maps for four years.

But many House con­ser­vat­ives say that goes too far.

At the same time, House Re­pub­lic­ans have found dif­fi­culty find­ing the right blend of tweaks to the 2012 law to deal with the fast-rising premi­ums, while also main­tain­ing the force and spir­it of its re­forms to the ail­ing flood in­sur­ance pro­gram have been dif­fi­cult.

The com­plaints about the bill that was sched­uled to be voted on Thursday in­cluded that it would un­der­mine the cur­rent law’s goal of end­ing tax­pay­er sub­sidies for the roughly one-fifth of the na­tion­al poli­cy­hold­ers who re­ceive them and would ex­tend in­to per­petu­ity sub­sidies for roughly 700,000 older primary homes, even if they are resold by the cur­rent own­er.

The meas­ure also would roll back rate in­creases for prop­er­ties that have been resold since Big­gerts-Wa­ters law was passed in mid-2012.

“This bill rep­res­ents a fun­da­ment­al be­tray­al of the free-mar­ket prin­ciples and fisc­al re­spons­ib­il­ity the House lead­er­ship claims to em­brace,” said R.J. Lehmann, a seni­or fel­low at R Street In­sti­tute, which char­ac­ter­izes it­self as a “free mar­ket” or “liber­tari­an” think tank.

What We're Following See More »
TRUMP CONTINUES TO LAWYER UP
Kasowitz Out, John Dowd In
2 days ago
THE LATEST

As the Russia investigation heats up, "the role of Marc E. Kasowitz, the president’s longtime New York lawyer, will be significantly reduced. Mr. Trump liked Mr. Kasowitz’s blunt, aggressive style, but he was not a natural fit in the delicate, politically charged criminal investigation. The veteran Washington defense lawyer John Dowd will take the lead in representing Mr. Trump for the Russia inquiry."

Source:
ALSO INQUIRES ABOUT PARDON POWER
Trump Looking to Discredit Mueller
2 days ago
THE LATEST

President Trump's attorneys are "actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work." They plan to argued that Mueller is going outside the scope of his investigation, in inquiring into Trump's finances. They're also playing small ball, highlighting "donations to Democrats by some of" Mueller's team, and "an allegation that Mueller and Trump National Golf Club in Northern Virginia had a dispute over membership fees when Mueller resigned as a member in 2011." Trump is said to be incensed that Mueller may see his tax returns, and has been asking about his power to pardon his family members.

Source:
INCLUDES NY PROBE INTO MANAFORT
Why Yes, Mueller Is Looking into Trump Businesses
3 days ago
THE LATEST

In addition to ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Robert Mueller's team is also "examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe. FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said. The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort."

Source:
Mueller Expands Probe to Trump Business Transactions
3 days ago
THE DETAILS

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team is "is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates", including "Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008."

Source:
ANALYSIS FROM CBO
32 Million More Uninsured by 2026 if Obamacare Repealed
3 days ago
THE LATEST

"A Senate bill to gut Obamacare would increase the number of uninsured people by 32 million and double premiums on Obamacare's exchanges by 2026, according to an analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The analysis is of a bill that passed Congress in 2015 that would repeal Obamacare's taxes and some of the mandates. Republicans intend to leave Obamacare in place for two years while a replacement is crafted and implemented."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login