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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Nelson, other senators rebuffed on flood insurance fix



Sen. Bill Nelson and a bipartisan group of other lawmakers tried this afternoon to fast-track a bill to address soaring flood insurance rate hikes, but the move was rejected, leaving prospects of a fix unlikely before Congress adjourns for the year.

"This is no fooling time," Nelson said. "I beg the Senate to let this legislation go by unanimous consent." Nelson read from this Tampa Bay Times story illustrating the story of Pinellas County homeowners who saw their rates skyrocket to $44,000 from $4,300.

But Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., objected, saying the bill had still not cleared the Banking Committee. Roberts was speaking on behalf of Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, who is the ranking member on banking.

A string of lawmakers, from a range of states, appeared on the floor to call attention to the issue — and to send a signal to increasingly angry constituents they are working on it. "We are down to the wire here," Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said darkly.

The Senate bill and companion legislation in the House intends to roll back any rate increases, which went into effect Oct. 1, until FEMA completes an affordability study.

"The people at FEMA, they're good people, but they don't understand affordability," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Also today, a trio of House members — Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota; Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar; and Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La. — will introduce a bill delaying the increases for 15 months until the study is done. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, is also a sponsor.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has still not signed on to the flood insurance bill, a sign of the challenges ahead. Critics point to the $24 billion in debt the national flood insurance program carries and say the subsidies go to the wealthy. That charge is countered by everyday people — including many in Florida, the state most affected by the changes — who say they are having trouble meeting the new costs.

[Last modified: Thursday, December 12, 2013 12:40pm]


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