Senate extends flood insurance program hours before deadline

Senate extends flood insurance program hours before deadline
© Greg Nash

The Senate on Tuesday cleared a short-term extension of the National Flood Insurance Program hours before funding for the program is set to expire.  

Senators voted 86-12 on the legislation, which would extend the program through November. Funding for the program is set to expire at midnight. 

The bill cleared the House last week and now heads to President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump reversed course on flavored e-cigarette ban over fear of job losses: report Trump to award National Medal of Arts to actor Jon Voight Sondland notified Trump officials of investigation push ahead of Ukraine call: report MORE's desk. 

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It briefly looked like the Senate would not be able to meet the Tuesday deadline when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLawmakers skeptical of progress on spending deal as wall battle looms Impeachment battle looms over must-pass defense bill 'Saturday Night Live' presents Trump impeachment hearings with 'pizzazz' of soap opera MORE (R-Ky.) was forced to file cloture on the House legislation, which could have dragged it out later into the week. 

But McConnell canceled the procedural vote on Monday night and instead scheduled a final vote on the short-term extension for Tuesday, meaning the bill will be sent to the White House before the midnight deadline. 

Twelve GOP senators voted against the short-term extension. Conservatives had balked at the straight extension arguing the program needs to be reformed because it's in debt.  

In the wake of significant damage caused by hurricanes and flooding in recent years, the program was in debt by roughly $30 billion as of last fall, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

GOP Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy Hillicon Valley: Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract in court | State antitrust investigation into Google expands | Intel agencies no longer collecting location data without warrant Senators introduce bipartisan bill restricting police use of facial recognition tech MORE (Utah) blasted his colleagues for "planning to rubber stamp" an extension of the program in its "dysfunctional status quo." He tried to pass legislation last week from GOP Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (La.) to extend the flood insurance program through January but Lee wanted to add a $2.5 million cap on flood insurance, and Kennedy objected.

Kennedy separately warned that it would be “down-to-the-marrow stupid” to let the program expire. 

"We need to reform this program, but we also need to keep it alive through the end of hurricane season. People have been living near the water since Moby Dick was a minnow. ... A reauthorization gives us time to make meaningful changes without scaring 5 million Americans half to death," Kennedy added in a statement.