GOP, Dems in broad agreement on bill to reform flood insurance program

House Republicans and Democrats on Tuesday indicated that they broadly agree on legislation that seeks to reform the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), including by eliminating the nearly $18 billion in debt the program has racked up over the last 40 years.

The House is considering the Flood Insurance Reform Act, which supporters hope will raise $4.2 billion toward the NFIP's debt over the next 10 years. It would do so by phasing in "actuarially sound rates" for flood insurance policy holders, and by phasing out taxpayer subsidized rates.

The bill also makes it easier for homeowners to choose private flood insurance, and gives people with homes just determined to be located in a flood plain certain flexibilities in buying flood insurance.

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The bill also extends the program through Sept. 30, 2016; the NFIP is set to expire at the end of this September without action from Congress.

While both parties rose to support the bill in Tuesday's afternoon debate, one member, Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.), argued that the entire program should be scrapped.

"I hate to rain on this bipartisan parade," she said. "I think this program needs to be eliminated, not reformed. And I would start with this basic premise. Why is the government in the flood insurance business?"

Miller said the Federal Emergency Management Agency has said the debt ceiling needs to be increased by $25 billion just because of the NFIP, and has indicated that the program is expected to permanently run a deficit.

"It is almost ludicrous to me that we are talking about raising the debt ceiling on a program the federal government should not be involved in," Miller said. She added that the NFIP is an "unnecessary, boondoggle, ridiculous program."

Miller added that she would offer an amendment striking the program completely. That and nearly two dozen other amendments are expected to be debated Tuesday.

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