House on track for flood bill vote

The House is on track to approve a delayed bipartisan fix to a 2012 flood insurance law next week, senior lawmakers said on Friday.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said during his weekly colloquy he expects the flood insurance bill to be brought up under a suspension of the rules, which requires a two-thirds vote to pass. Cantor had previously announced that the measure would come up this week, but he and other Republicans needed more time to work out final details with Democrats.

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The measure seeks to prevent dramatic premium increases for homeowners in flood zones as a result of a 2012 law that sought to put the debt-ridden National Flood Insurance Program on solid fiscal footing.

The Senate passed legislation in January that delays the premium increases for up to four years, but Cantor has deemed it a “non-starter” in the House because it goes too far in reversing the 2012 law’s fiscal reforms.

Republicans and Democrats from coastal states have campaigned for the fix, but because of opposition from Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), chairman of the Financial Services Committee, House leaders have instead turned to the panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Maxine Waters (Calif.), for help in crafting legislation that can pass with broad bipartisan support. Waters was a chief author, along with former Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.), of the 2012 reform.

In a statement Friday, Waters said negotiators had made “important progress” toward finalizing the measure.

“We are taking this matter very seriously, and we are working in good faith to ensure this bill provides a comprehensive solution that will make flood insurance affordable for the hundreds of thousands of families who have been suffering,” Waters said. “I am hopeful that we can reach agreement on this legislation by next week.”

The bill is expected to cap rate increases at an average of 15 percent. Lawmakers blame the Federal Emergency Management Agency for misinterpreting their intent in redrawing flood zones to implement the 2012 law.

“While there certainly needs to be some fiscal sanity brought to this program, the way it is being implemented is just not sustainable,” Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday during a news conference. “And everybody understands it.”

“The Senate bill, in my view, doesn't really solve the problem,” he said. “And I do think that the effort that's underway is — it's a serious effort, a practical effort, to soften the impact of these changes to the program.”

Pete Kasperowicz contributed.