Pryor, Boozman are big winners on flood insurance bill

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"We have some of the best levees in the world that have never once been breached. It simply doesn’t make sense to ignore these taxpayer investments, and arbitrarily force these families to fill [the Federal Emergency Management Agency]’s coffers through an unnecessary flood insurance mandate,” Pryor said in a release touting his accomplishment. “I was proud to go to battle for these communities, and I am hopeful we have put this proposal to rest for good.”

“I commend Senator Pryor’s hard work to lead the charge against this needless directive and pleased that our objections helped create a sound bill,” said Boozman.

Pryor gave particular credit to Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) for helping in the effort.

The five-year NFIP reauthorization bill was embedded in a highway funding and student loan bill. It passed the Senate 74 to 19 with 23 Republicans joining every Democrat in voting for the measure.

Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense said it was unfortunate that the reform provision “was jettisoned to satisfy the parochial concerns of Sen. Pryor and a few others.”

“They will come to regret that,” he said. He noted that under the original bill, homeowners would have been given credit for strong levees, whereas they are now assumed to have no levee protection when they do elect to take out flood insurance.

“It is a flaw for sure,” said Matt Gannon of the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies. He said “the fundamental principles of risk management” had been violated.  

CBO said that the removal of the residual risk provision had no impact on its deficit estimate. When Senate Banking produced the bill, the entire bll would have saved nearly $5 billion. The final bill saves about half that, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

CBO says most of the difference is due to the fact a 60 day extension of NFIP signed last month included important reforms such as restrictions on subsidies for vacation homes.

Ellis and Gannon’s groups were part of a coalition of fiscal, insurance and environmental groups pushing for NFIP reform. On Friday they credited their coalition of “strange bedfellows” for forcing the Senate to take up the bill, when two months ago another extension of the program, which has had 17-short term extensions, was likely.

Joshua Saks of the National Wildlife Federation told reporters that the bill will protect the environment because it will discourage building in flood plains. 

-- This story was updated at 5:40 pm with new information from CBO.