Senators fuming over flood insurance compromise in highway bill

Sen. Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuProject Veritas at risk of losing fundraising license in New York, AG warns You want to recall John McCain? Good luck, it will be impossible CNN producer on new O'Keefe video: Voters are 'stupid,' Trump is 'crazy' MORE (D-La.) took to the Senate floor Thursday to say that she opposes the NFIP reauthorization and would have voted against the bill if the highway and student loan provisions had not been packaged together with it.

She said that she had understood she would be allowed to offer amendments on affordability and risk areas known as so-called V zones, but combining the NFIP bill with the other measures will not allow her provisions to be inserted.

“I must go on record ... that I would vote against it,” she said. She said she is certain the Senate will be forced to change the bill within a year to help lower premiums.

Senators were negotiating Thursday on a contentious area of the legislation related to how homes in areas covered by levees, known as "residual risk areas," are treated by NFIP.

Last week Landrieu and Sens. Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranObstruction of justice watch: Trump attacks the FBI America isn't ready to let Sessions off his leash The Hill's Whip List: Where Republicans stand on Senate tax bill MORE (R-Miss.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and David VitterDavid VitterThe Senate 'ethics' committee is a black hole where allegations die Questions loom over Franken ethics probe You're fired! Why it's time to ditch the Fed's community banker seat MORE (R-La.) struck a compromise on an issue related to how insurance treats homes in areas covered by government levees, with the heads of the Senate Banking Committee.

The members had opposed a provision in the draft legislation that would have mandated insurance in a wider flood zone and would have resulted in higher insurance premiums for homeowners there.

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The compromise would have delayed mandatory coverage in flood areas protected by levees until the Federal Emergency Management Agency develops new risk-assessment tools to give homeowners credit for strength of the levee.

Sen. Mark PryorMark PryorMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm MORE (D-Ark.) also opposed the original bill, but had not signed onto the compromise and was expected to offer an amendment striking it from the bill. 

Sources said Thursday that the compromise, which was in a version of the conference report posted online Wednesday night, had been removed. They later clarified that negotiators had also removed the underlying language as well that would have made coverage in those areas mandatory in the first place. 

This is a victory for the Landrieu group.

Fiscal conservative groups such as Taxpayers for Common Sense and R Street had been happy that the higher premiums were in the bill. As it stands, the bill reduces the deficit by nearly $5 billion by increasing revenue for NFIP, the nation's sole provider of flood insurance.

The Senate had been expected to debate a standalone NFIP bill this week, but negotiations on amendments bogged down after Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulLexington mayor launches bid for Congress Trump-free Kennedy Center Honors avoids politics Meet the Iran hawk who could be Trump's next secretary of State MORE (R-Ky.) insisted on staging a abortion-related vote on when life begins. NFIP expires at the end of July, and the repeated lapses of the program have hurt the housing sector, industry sources have said. 

Correction: This story was updated at 5:40 pm to more accurately reflect Landrieu's floor remarks and the status of the levee provisions.