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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 TrumpIran's leader vows 'revenge,' posting an image resembling Trump Former Sanders spokesperson: Biden 'backing away' from 'populist offerings' Justice Dept. to probe sudden departure of US attorney in Atlanta after Trump criticism 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 McConnellTrump selects South Carolina lawyer for impeachment trial McConnell proposes postponing impeachment trial until February For Biden, a Senate trial could aid bipartisanship around COVID relief 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 LeeThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden takes office, calls for end to 'uncivil war' Senate confirms Biden's intel chief, giving him first Cabinet official Republicans wrestle over removing Trump 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.