Anonymous senator blocks flood funding

The House yesterday sliced about $400 million from a bill increasing the National Flood Insurance Program’s borrowing authority, sending the bill back to the Senate for final approval, but an anonymous senator immediately placed a hold on the bill.

The program has estimated that it will no longer be able to pay claims for policyholders hit by Hurricane Katrina if borrowing authority is not increased within the next few weeks, but the Senate hold could forestall final passage of the flood-insurance bill until March, requiring insurance companies to stop paying flood claims underwritten by the government.

One lobbyist working for a swift increase in borrowing authority pointed to Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) as the likely source of the hold, saying Snowe is seeking recourse against a hold placed by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) on extra home heating aid to the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

“Snowe is holding up the flood bill because Coburn is holding up her LIHEAP money,” the lobbyist said.

Snowe’s office did not return inquiries on the anonymous hold by press time. Coburn is unaware of any link between his hold on the home-heating bill and the flood-insurance hold, according to his spokesman.