HOMEOWNER FLOOD INSURANCE AFFORDABILITY ACT OF 2013
(Senate - March 13, 2014)

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[Pages S1627-S1632]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




          HOMEOWNER FLOOD INSURANCE AFFORDABILITY ACT OF 2013

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the Senate will 
proceed to the consideration of H.R. 3370.
  The clerk will report the bill by title.
  The legislative clerk read as follows:

       A bill (H.R. 3370) to delay the implementation of certain 
     provisions of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act 
     of 2012, and for other purposes.

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, there are now 45 
minutes for debate.
  The Senator from Utah.
  Mr. LEE. Mr. President, this particular bill has not been examined in 
committee--not in the Senate, not even in the House. It was rushed to 
the floor of the House without amendment, and it is rushed to the floor 
here without amendment. This is not how the legislative process is 
supposed to work--especially not here in the Senate.
  My opponents may say we already had our chance to impact this policy, 
but what we have before us now is a different bill--a bill which we 
have never seen before. This bill is not a conference report. It takes 
zero cues from the Senate bill. Not a single representative of the 
American people has been given the opportunity to offer even a single 
amendment to this legislation.
  All I have been asking for is a vote on an amendment which eliminates 
certain insurance rebates for second homes. My amendment would not 
change homeowners' flood insurance policies or even reduce the new 
taxpayer subsidy we are going to give them. It simply removes a 
retroactive reimbursement for second homes. Essentially we ask that 
working families around the country, including taxpayers in my State, 
not have to cut an additional check to the owners of coastal vacation 
houses. I know of no one who objects to my provision on policy grounds. 
Let me repeat that. I don't know of anyone, not one person who has 
raised a policy objection to

[[Page S1628]]

the amendment I have offered. It is an objective improvement to the 
underlying policy and this is what the Senate is supposed to do. Yet 
the supporters of the bill have been blocking any amendments that may 
garner bipartisan support to hold together a deal that has been 
negotiated in a backroom, written in secret by only a few Members, 
perhaps with the influence of a few people who may be interested in 
that. These ``masters of the universe'' as my friend Senator Sessions 
has sometimes referred to them, are shutting the American people out of 
the process.

  I asked for 10 minutes and a vote on a single unobjectionable germane 
amendment to a bill the public has never before seen, but it seems this 
may be a bridge too far for the ``masters of the universe,'' as my 
friend from Alabama likes to call them.
  So in an effort hopefully to change one of the more offensive 
policies in the bill, one that provides a refund of premiums paid under 
the law to homeowners of second vacation homes from a program that is 
already $24 billion in the hole, I agree to a vote on my amendment as a 
stand-alone bill. I have assurances from the House majority leader that 
he will work to get the policy considered in the House and I take him 
at his word.
  I urge my colleagues to support my bill to protect the American 
people from being asked to fund--to refund premiums paid under current 
law to owners of second homes and vacation homes.
  Mr. INHOFE. Mr. President, I am opposed to H.R. 3370 because it 
abandons the much-needed reforms to the National Flood Insurance 
Program, NFIP, that were instituted in the Biggert-Waters Reform Act of 
2012. That bill set the NFIP on a course to quickly remove Federal 
subsidies from the program and make it actuarially sound. If these 
policies had been fully implemented, it would have allowed the 
development of a private insurance marketplace for flood insurance, 
which does not currently exist. H.R. 3370 prevents flood insurance 
policies from being written at an actuarially sound rate when homes are 
sold to a new buyer or when a flood insurance policy lapses. New 
purchasers of homes in areas that require flood insurance should not be 
subsidized for making that decision. H.R. 3370 puts in doubt the hope 
that NFIP's subsidies are eliminated.
  Thank you, I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from New Jersey.
  Mr. MENENDEZ. Mr. President, I rise to urge a ``yes'' vote for final 
passage of the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, the 
legislation we are here to consider. I will say the Senate went through 
a considerate, deliberate process where amendments were openly 
considered. I believe at the end of the process there was a 67-to-32 
vote. We don't normally get two-thirds of the Senate agreeing on major 
issues, but we did at that time in a bipartisan effort.
  My understanding is the legislation that ultimately we are 
considering today, which is basically foundationally what we agreed to 
here with some changes in the House, for which there was vigorous back-
and-forth negotiation, passed by over 300 votes of the House of 
Representatives. So it seems to me it has a broad bipartisan support 
and was vigorously debated in that Chamber.
  We have an opportunity to once again, after the bill we just passed, 
show this body can work. We had a respectable debate on good-faith 
amendments that were germane to the bill, lived up to the ideals of the 
Senate when it was before us. We were able to have bipartisan 
negotiations to improve the House-passed version of our bill so it 
would provide the levels of relief that are necessary. As a result, we 
are now poised to pass some critical legislation with overwhelmingly 
bipartisan support which provides real relief to millions of American 
families.
  Just very briefly, because I hope to basically not use all the time 
so we can come to a vote and get our Members on their way, this new 
legislation is first of all budget neutral. It does not add a dime to 
the deficit, nor does it hurt the solvency of the National Flood 
Insurance Program. It prevents skyrocketing rate increases by 
implementing the following measures: One, it creates a firewall on 
annual rate increases. It repeals the property sales trigger that was 
depressing the values of homes. It repeals the new policy sales 
trigger. It reinstates grandfathering. It refunds homeowners who 
overpaid. It has something that I thought was critically important, 
that I thought was so important when we passed Biggert-Waters that I 
included it by amendment in the banking committee--an affordability 
goal.
  Let us have the ability to ensure the solvency of the National Flood 
Insurance Program, but let us have an affordability mechanism which 
FEMA was, under the law that exists today, required to report to the 
Congress so we could ultimately come up with an affordability mechanism 
that would ensure that we have a solvent program and that we have an 
affordable program.
  At the end of the day, insurance is about spreading risk over a wide 
pool and in doing so keeping rates affordable. With rates that I heard 
from homeowners in New Jersey that went from $1,000 to $10,000 or 
$15,000, not only is that not affordable but you are going to 
ultimately reduce the size of the risk pool in the National Flood 
Insurance Program. That means that is going to continue to drive up the 
cost, and we have a self-fulfilling cycle that ultimately does not 
provide for solvency.
  So we have kept some of the most important reforms under Biggert-
Waters, but we created a window of opportunity to make sure we get to 
affordability, that we help the real estate market, at a time when it 
desperately needs help, to be able to continue to prosper. The people's 
most significant asset in their life was built over a lifetime to buy a 
home, and that is where they ultimately have their greatest asset. It 
is where they leverage for their kid's education or emergency in health 
care and a whole host of plans for retirement.
  So for millions of people in my State and across the country who 
ultimately did the right thing, followed rules, paid their premiums, 
met the higher standards, now to be told that in addition to--in New 
Jersey's case the consequences of Hurricane Sandy, and throughout the 
Northeast, flooding in Colorado or the Mississippi or a whole host of 
other places--but despite the fact they did everything right, through 
no fault of their own and having paid their fees, they are now in rate 
shock, an inability to keep flood insurance, which sometimes triggers a 
default on the mortgage, if they have a mortgage, or makes it 
impossible to sell their home.
  That is what we are rectifying. It is our collective purpose. I urge 
a strong ``yes'' vote.
  Finally, I wish to thank my colleagues who have worked with me on a 
bipartisan basis: My lead cosponsor Senator Isakson. I don't believe 
there is anybody in the Senate who has a greater depth of knowledge in 
the real estate industry and how this legislation affects that but also 
understands the consequences of individual families and is working in 
an incredibly strong way so we can get to this bipartisan moment. I 
appreciate all of his work.
  Also, I have to say the tenaciousness and the ability to bring us to 
this point is that of Senator Landrieu, who has become an expert out of 
necessity from what happens in her State with Hurricane Katrina. The 
people of Louisiana are extraordinarily fortunate to have her as one of 
their Senators. She has been a guiding light throughout this process, 
tremendously helpful in getting us to today.
  Lastly, I appreciate the leadership on both sides to get us to this 
moment so we could have this vote.
  With that, I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Georgia.
  Mr. ISAKSON. I am going to be very brief in the interest of time. I 
wish to thank Senator Menendez for his leadership, Senator Landrieu for 
her leadership. Without their work this would not happen.
  Let me tell you what this does. This bill corrects the unintended 
consequence of denying liquidity to coastal Americans in their housing 
and causing the unintended consequence of people not buying insurance 
and putting themselves and this country at greater risk in those areas 
that are

[[Page S1629]]

prone to floods. It aggressively addresses the need we have to make 
this system more solvent and make it work better.
  The Senate today will be solving a greater problem for coastal 
American residents and those in flood areas. They will be doing the 
right thing at the right time to correct an unintended consequence of 
an action of the Congress. I am honored to be a part of it.
  I commend Senator Menendez and Senator Landrieu and thank them for 
their effort.
  I yield back my time.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from New York.
  Mr. SCHUMER. First, I thank my colleague from Louisiana for letting 
me butt in a little bit.
  I also praise the three people who are on the floor, one can say 
without each of whom this would not have happened. I don't think we can 
say that about anyone else here, myself included, but you can say that 
about these three. Senator Menendez, our lead sponsor on the bill, who 
is indomitable and smart about crafting legislation; Johnny Isakson, 
who was able to make this a bipartisan bill and in his gentle, 
friendly, and persuasive way brought many people on board, prevented 
people from blocking it; and the dynamo--we would all agree--the dynamo 
of this operation, Senator Mary Landrieu, who did not quit. I would say 
Mary Landrieu and I have had probably 200 phone calls in the last month 
about flood insurance--three or four a day. Whenever there was a 
blockage, she was like a jackhammer getting through it. So I thank her.
  I am going to be very brief as well--not quite as brief as my 
colleague from Georgia, but brief for me and brief for the Senate.
  This is a very important day for the people of New York. We have 
thousands of homeowners who either have had their flood insurance rise 
or are fearful of their flood insurance rising. Most of them are 
middle-class people in places such as Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, 
the Rockaways, out to the southern shore of Long Island and up the 
Hudson River. To be a homeowner is to have your little piece of the 
rock if you are a middle-class person. Basically, it is all you own. To 
have that taken away from you by an irrational Washington force called 
Biggert-Waters made no sense. Yet, when people's flood insurance bills 
would go up from $500 to $4,000, when they were told if they sold their 
house it might go up to $10,000, their piece of the rock--their home--
was in true jeopardy.
  We all know there is an increase in flooding. We all know the huge 
damage Katrina and Sandy caused. But to put it on the backs of 
homeowners, as FEMA was doing by both increasing rates and expanding 
flood maps beyond what flood zones should be made no sense.
  We had so many people in New York who were damaged--I know this is 
true of my colleague from New Jersey as well--who were damaged by 
Sandy, who painstakingly rebuilt their home, getting some money from 
insurance and some money from FEMA and some money from Sandy and going 
to relatives and friends. After their home was finally rebuilt to be 
told, now here is your $5,000 flood insurance bill, when these people 
are in debt, it was awful, a double whammy.
  This bill isn't perfect, but it will stop all of that. It 
grandfathers homes in so people who sell their homes will not see the 
price go way up, and because of the efforts we made in the Senate, the 
bill the House is sending us has an individual limit on how much flood 
insurance can go up. Eighteen percent is still not as low an amount as 
we would like--and we may be able to revisit that down the road--but it 
certainly is not a 700-, 2,000- or 5,000-percent increase, which is 
what people were getting.
  So this is a good day. It is a good day for the shorefront areas of 
New York which contain close to 1 million people. It is a good day for 
the coastal areas throughout America, the areas by rivers throughout 
America. Do you know what it means? It means that the American dream of 
working hard, buying a home, and having your little piece of the rock 
will not be destroyed by some unknown, misunderstood, and irrational 
force from Washington on flood insurance. Flood insurance will now be a 
friend once again rather than a foe.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Louisiana.
  Ms. LANDRIEU. I wish to speak on this for 2 minutes now, because I 
know people are anxious to vote on final passage of this important 
bill, and I will speak at length after the vote.
  I just wish to say thank you to the two leaders who are on the floor, 
Senator Menendez from New Jersey, Senator Johnny Isakson from Georgia. 
They were the team who brought the coalition together when it was very 
hard--and still is difficult--to build a coalition on any subject. This 
subject is complicated. It is difficult. There are very strong feelings 
on all sides. There are different parts of the country that look at 
this in different ways, and there are debts that need to be paid 
attached to this program. So this was not an easy negotiation, and the 
leaders both did an extraordinary job keeping us on track.
  No. 2, this compromise--and that is what it represents--the best of 
the compromise was, in fact, debated at length on this Senate floor; it 
was debated at length in the House of Representatives; and it was voted 
on 67 to 32 in the Senate favorably and 306 to 91 in the House 
favorably. The minority view--represented by the Senator from Utah, 
which would throw this bill into a conference committee right now--is 
not what the American people want, and it is not what the majority of 
Republicans or the majority of Democrats want, as demonstrated by the 
vote I just put into the Record.

  We could all take this bill and rewrite sections of it that would 
work better for our home State, but that is not what this place is 
about. This place is not about perfection. It is about the art of the 
possible, and it is about listening to our constituents and responding 
to them when they have a great need.
  In the State of Louisiana, I have 400,000 people who are afraid they 
will lose their homes. For many of these families, that is the greatest 
asset they have, and they are close to losing it. They don't want us to 
go to the conference committee and perfect this bill. They want us to 
pass it today, right now, and that is what I think we are going to do.
  I know the Senator from Utah is disappointed. He may know the masters 
of the universe, but I am still looking for them. I could use a lot 
more wisdom and strength. If they are around here, I would like them to 
present themselves. All we have right now is each other--human beings 
trying to do the very best we can with a difficult circumstance. It may 
not be a perfect bill, but the concept of this bill got 67 votes in the 
Senate and 306 votes in the House. We have passed it in record time, 
given the pace around here. I am very proud.
  I see the Senator from Florida. I know he would like to say a word.
  Mr. NELSON. Will the Senator yield?
  Ms. LANDRIEU. Yes.
  Mr. NELSON. I thank the Senator from Louisiana, who has been the 
sparkplug behind this bill. As a result of her hard work, there are a 
lot of people in Florida who will be saved unconscionable increases.
  Again, my thanks to the Senator from Louisiana.
  Ms. LANDRIEU. I yield and turn the floor over to the leader, Senator 
Menendez. I believe the time will be yielded back.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from New Jersey.
  Mr. MENENDEZ. Mr. President, I understand we are going to be able to 
act on the Lee bill with a voice vote. As a result, I ask consent that 
the order with respect to a 60-affirmative-vote threshold with respect 
to S. 2137 be vitiated with all of the provisions of the previous order 
remaining in effect.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. MENENDEZ. Mr. President, in the interest of getting this bill to 
the President's desk and giving relief to flood victims across the 
country, and many other homeowners, we yield back the remainder of our 
time and ask for the yeas and nays.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there a sufficient second?
  There appears to be a sufficient second.
  Without objection, all time is yielded back.

[[Page S1630]]

  The bill was ordered to a third reading and was read the third time.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The bill having been read the third time, the 
question is, Shall it pass?
  The yeas and nays have been ordered.
  The clerk will call the roll.
  Mr. DURBIN. I announce that the Senator from California (Mrs. Boxer) 
and the Senator from Missouri (Mrs. McCaskill) are necessarily absent.
  Mr. CORNYN. The following Senators are necessarily absent: the 
Senator from Nevada (Mr. Heller), the Senator from Oklahoma (Mr. 
Inhofe), the Senator from Kansas (Mr. Moran), and the Senator from 
Kentucky (Mr. Paul).
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Ms. Heitkamp). Are there any other Senators in 
the Chamber desiring to vote?
  The result was announced--yeas 72, nays 22, as follows:

                      [Rollcall Vote No. 78 Leg.]

                                YEAS--72

     Ayotte
     Baldwin
     Begich
     Bennet
     Blumenthal
     Blunt
     Booker
     Brown
     Burr
     Cantwell
     Cardin
     Casey
     Chambliss
     Coats
     Cochran
     Collins
     Coons
     Cruz
     Donnelly
     Durbin
     Feinstein
     Franken
     Gillibrand
     Graham
     Grassley
     Hagan
     Harkin
     Heinrich
     Heitkamp
     Hirono
     Hoeven
     Isakson
     Kaine
     King
     Kirk
     Klobuchar
     Landrieu
     Leahy
     Levin
     Manchin
     Markey
     Menendez
     Merkley
     Mikulski
     Murkowski
     Murphy
     Murray
     Nelson
     Portman
     Pryor
     Reed
     Reid
     Rockefeller
     Rubio
     Sanders
     Schatz
     Schumer
     Scott
     Sessions
     Shaheen
     Stabenow
     Tester
     Toomey
     Udall (CO)
     Udall (NM)
     Vitter
     Walsh
     Warner
     Warren
     Whitehouse
     Wicker
     Wyden

                                NAYS--22

     Alexander
     Barrasso
     Boozman
     Carper
     Coburn
     Corker
     Cornyn
     Crapo
     Enzi
     Fischer
     Flake
     Hatch
     Johanns
     Johnson (SD)
     Johnson (WI)
     Lee
     McCain
     McConnell
     Risch
     Roberts
     Shelby
     Thune

                             NOT VOTING--6

     Boxer
     Heller
     Inhofe
     McCaskill
     Moran
     Paul
  The bill (H.R. 3370) was passed.


                            VOTE EXPLANATION

 Mrs. BOXER. Madam President, I was unable to attend the roll 
call vote on passage of H.R. 3370, the Homeowner Flood Insurance 
Affordability Act of 2014. Had I been present for this vote, I would 
have voted yea.
  Ms. LANDRIEU. Madam President, when Hurricane Betsy roared ashore in 
Grand Isle on September 9, 1965, it wrought havoc in Louisiana and 
Mississippi and became the first natural disaster to cost American 
taxpayers more than $1 billion. It fundamentally changed the way our 
nation prepared for and responded to disasters. Private insurers fled 
the market, making it necessary for the federal government to step in 
and help communities rebuild and recover. The National Flood Insurance 
Program established building standards for flood prone areas to limit 
communities' exposure to flooding and rewarded responsible homeowners 
with affordable flood insurance that was no longer available in the 
private market.
  In response, Congress, led by Hale Boggs, passed the National Flood 
Insurance Act of 1968 with the explicit goal of making ``. . . flood 
insurance available on reasonable terms and conditions . . .''
  Affordability was one of the primary goals of the National Flood 
Insurance Program when it was created, and it remains an essential 
priority today. Unfortunately, affordability was virtually eliminated 
by the 2012 NFIP reform legislation known as Biggert-Waters, and we had 
to fight to get it reinstated in the compromise bill that cleared the 
House last Wednesday, March 5 with a strong, bipartisan vote of 306-91.
  On January 16, Speaker Boehner flatly refused to consider 
comprehensive flood insurance reform legislation in the House, telling 
an AP reporter bluntly: ``We're not going to do that.'' The decisive 
67-32 Senate vote to pass the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability 
Act on January 30 demonstrated the breadth and depth of our coalition 
and provided the necessary momentum for House leadership to get engaged 
and support this strategy.
  Senior leaders of both parties worked closely with Rep. Maxine 
Waters, Rep. Cedric Richmond, Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Rep. 
Michael Grimm to reach a fair, bipartisan, bicamercal compromise that 
can get to the President's desk, and we owe it to our constituents to 
act as soon as possible with an up or down vote.
  The National Flood Insurance Program is one of the earliest examples 
of large scale community planning in America. It made community based 
mitigation a requirement for rebuilding. In order to be eligible for 
federally subsidized, low-cost flood insurance, communities had to pass 
ordinances restricting future development in floodplains. Taxpayers for 
Common Sense, the National Wildlife Federation and others would have 
you believe that NFIP encourages development in flood plains, but the 
reality is that it does the exact opposite.
  By removing affordability from the core of the National Flood 
Insurance Program, Biggert-Waters put every policyholder on the path to 
Full Risk Rates whatever they may be. Speaking in support of the 
compromise bill, Steve Scalise, my colleague from Louisiana and Chair 
of the conservative Republican Study Committee, explained the problem 
clearly and directly saying:
  ``Sending somebody a $10,000 or a $20,000-a-year bill on a $200,000 
house that never flooded is not an actuarially sound rate. It's a death 
sentence.''
  Whether it takes 2 years or 20 years to get there, full risk rates of 
$20,000 or more will continue to freeze the housing market, depress 
property values, and prevent responsible homeowners from purchasing 
flood insurance. Program participation is already anemic with just over 
half--60 percent--of those required by law to have flood insurance in 
compliance and even less market penetration in low-risk areas where we 
want people to purchase voluntary flood insurance policies to grow and 
diversify the risk pool. The Senate bill delayed the worst rate 
increases until FEMA completed the affordability study and proposed an 
affordability framework to protect people from impossibly high 
premiums.
  This indiscriminate march to Full Risk Rates is further complicated 
by a fundamentally flawed mapping process that wipes local levees off 
the maps and excludes impacted communities from the mapping process. At 
my request last summer, David Miller, Association Administrator for the 
Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration--the man in charge of 
the National Flood Insurance Program, stood on top of a $450 million 
levee in Lafourche Parish that was completely wiped off the map when 
FEMA released their new flood map in 2008. Their map remains under 
appeal to this day.
  The parish was one of 25 sites nationally included in the pilot 
program for FEMA's new Levee Analysis and Mapping Procedures, LAMP, 
that were designed to fix this problem, but that process only began 
last summer and has a long way to go before it is ready for prime time. 
The Senate bill delayed rate increases based on new flood maps until 
FEMA certified that their maps were accurate and reliable.
  Whereas the Senate sought to delay the worst parts of Biggert-Waters 
until maps were accurate and the affordability study was complete, the 
House took a different approach by repealing these provisions and 
replacing them with other annual fees and rate increases. We had a 
healthy discussion and debate about our two approaches and eventually 
arrived at a compromise we could all live with that will protect people 
from the most aggressive rate hikes included in Biggert-Waters.
  I commend Rep. Waters and Rep. Richmond for the leadership in 
reinstating affordability as an essential element of this program. 
Since Representative Cantor unveiled his bill on February 21, we 
successfully amended it to include an 18 percent annual cap on 
individual premium increases and an overall affordability target of 1 
percent of the value of the policy.
  While I would have preferred lower annual premium increases and 
stricter standards on overall affordability, this bill is a decent 
compromise that will address the most pernicious pieces of Biggert-
Waters and attract the bipartisan support necessary to get it to the 
President's desk. This is another important step in our ongoing efforts 
to provide affordable, accessible and sustainable flood insurance to 
middle class Americans, but this bill is not the

[[Page S1631]]

end of the battle. Nothing is perfect. Nothing is permanent.
  After nearly 2 years of arduous work and steadfast determination by a 
broad coalition of individuals, business groups and community leaders, 
the most pernicious provisions and draconian rate increases of Biggert-
Waters have successfully been stopped and affordability has been 
returned as the centerpiece of the National Flood Insurance Program. 
The passionate debate we had during the last 2 years--one that will 
continue--has shown that affordable flood insurance is about more than 
just actuarial numbers on a page. It is about protecting our unique 
culture, our treasured way of life, and preserving the historic coastal 
communities that built this nation and continue to drive its economy 
today.
  As Chair of the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations 
Committee, I will hold FEMA accountable for implementing this bill in a 
timely and transparent manner that provides homeowners and housing 
markets with the immediate relief they need to recover from these 
draconian rate hikes. Over the course of the past week, we were able to 
improve the original Cantor bill by removing onerous and unnecessary 
bureaucratic provisions, but I am not confident that FEMA will execute 
this either efficiently or effectively.
  The great coalition of home builders, realtors, bankers, insurance 
agents, mayors, local governments and individual homeowners that fought 
to make flood insurance reform a national priority must remain vigilant 
and engaged. The National Flood Insurance Program expires in 2017, and 
we will need to include strict affordability language to protect 
responsible homeowners from impossible premiums.
  The compromise bill that passed the House last week with a vote of 
306-91 has the support of the coalition that helped secure the strong 
67-32 vote in the Senate earlier this year. Some of the key industry 
groups behind the bill are:

       Greater New Orleans Inc--GNO Inc,
       National Association of Realtors,
       National Home Builders Association,
       National Association of Counties--NACo,
       National League of Cities,
       American Bankers Association,
       Independent Community Bankers of America, and the
       Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America--Big 
     ``I''.

  Biggert-Waters was built backwards and upside down. It authorized 
immediate rate increases on responsible homeowners without any 
understanding of how they would impact individual policyholders or the 
program at large and before FEMA was able to certify that their maps 
are accurate and reliable.

  Lafourche Parish has been appealing their new map since 2008 because 
FEMA cannot figure out how to give them credit for local levees, 
including an 8-16 foot, 40 mile ring levee that was authorized by 
Congress in 1965--the Larose to Golden Meadow Hurricane Protection 
Project. To date, $450 million has been invested in this project, 
including $200 million from the Federal government. This past summer, 
FEMA began a pilot program that is supposed to solve the problem, but 
it will be another 2-3 years before that process is complete. FEMA 
needs to get their flood maps right the first time.
  Currently, only 60 percent of the homeowners and businesses that are 
REQUIRED to have flood insurance actually do, and the aggressive rate 
increases authorized under Biggert-Waters threaten to make that problem 
a whole lot worse. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that every 
10 percent increase in premiums leads to a 3 percent drop in overall 
program participation.
  Katherine in Houma, LA cannot sell her home because a pernicious 
provision in Biggert-Waters that immediately increases premiums 
hundreds or thousands of dollars when you sell your house. When the 
young couple that was trying to buy her house went to closing, they 
learned that the flood insurance would go from $1,400 to $8,000 and 
could no longer afford the house. Katherine is stuck with a house she 
cannot sell and insurance she cannot afford.
  Biggert-Waters threatens the very foundation of home ownership, the 
cornerstone of the American Dream. Fixing this flawed legislation is 
about protecting people's homes and equity and preserving the American 
dream that if you work hard and play by the rules you can have a secure 
future.
  Our bill structures NFIP in an affordable, comprehensive and 
sustainable way. For decades, the program was sustainable until the 
2005 storm season resulted in an unprecedented $17 billion in claims. 
Prior to that, it had an annual average deficit of just $19 million per 
year.
  This is not just a Louisiana or coastal issue. Fifty-five percent of 
our nation's population lives within 50 miles of the coast--and that 
doesn't include those living along inland waterways. Ten percent of the 
homes in the United States have a one-in-four chance of flooding in the 
lifetime of their mortgage.
  In 2010, the 15 percent of U.S. counties that are located directly on 
open ocean, the Great Lakes, major estuaries or coastal flood plains 
contributed $8.3 trillion--55 percent--to the Nation's Gross Domestic 
Product, and these communities proved more resilient during the 2007 
recession, actually growing employment by 1.4 percent while the 
national employment rate fell by 2.3 percent.
  This is not about millionaires in mansions on the beach. This is 
about middle class Americans who need affordable flood insurance so 
they can live where they need to work to harvest fresh seafood, produce 
domestic energy, and manufacture and transport the goods we need to 
maintain America's competitive advantage in the 21st century.
  In response to all the concern I have heard from my constituents, I 
launched ``My Home, My Story'' to show you, literally, show some of the 
people and properties facing these rate increases that we are aiming to 
help. These aren't mansions, these aren't millionaires. These are 
middle class, working people living in normal, middle class houses 
doing their best to raise their kids, contribute to their communities 
and make a living.
  I received over a hundred pictures and stories from my constituents.
  Cody put his home on the market for less than its value and still 
couldn't sell it because of the high premium on his flood insurance.
  Rachel lives in a 1,000 square foot elevated home with no central air 
or heat, one small bathroom, a quaint front porch and a beautiful 
sycamore tree. Three months after moving in, her flood insurance 
increased by $750 per year, and she's is struggling to make payments.
  Maggie is a 66-year-old woman who has lived in the same house since 
1974 and plans to stay there for the remainder of her life. She lives 
on a very strict budget and just received her first Social Security 
payment. If the law is not changed, it will be impossible for her to 
stay in her home or sell her home.
  It provides basic consumer protections to responsible homeowners who 
built to code and played by the rules are struggling to stay in the 
NFIP.
  It protects home equity. In St. Charles Parish, LA, the Assessor is 
reducing home values up to 30 percent because of the dramatic rate 
hikes that take effect overnight when a person goes to sell their home.
  Based on the average mortgage, every $1,000 increase in annual flood 
insurance premiums reduces an individual's purchasing power by $20,000.
  This provision affects 20 percent of all NFIP policyholders--1.1 
million properties nationwide.
  It ensures FEMA Flood Maps are Accurate. In 2011, FEMA acknowledged 
the failings of its ``without levees'' policy that resulted in local 
levees being literally wiped off the map, but it took them over two 
years to develop a new policy--the Levee Analysis and Mapping 
Procedures, LAMP. A pilot program for 25 sites nationwide--including 5 
in Louisiana--Lafourche, Terrebonne, St. Charles, Plaquemines and St. 
Tammany--began in July, but it will be another 2-3 years before that 
process will be complete.
  It allows FEMA to Complete the Affordability Study. FEMA must 
complete the affordability study mandated by Biggert-Waters and propose 
solutions for Congressional review. Our bill creates an expedited 
process for Congress to take action on these recommendations while 
maintaining critical checks and balances on FEMA's authority.

[[Page S1632]]

  Provides Fair Credit for Local Levees--Removes the penalty on 
locally-financed flood protection projects and ensures that local and 
state investments in mitigation are accurately factored into the flood 
mapping process.
  I thank the following Senate cosponsors for all their hard work 
throughout this process:
  Robert Menendez, Johnny Isakson, Mary L. Landrieu, Thad Cochran, Jeff 
Merkley, David Vitter, John Hoeven, Tim Scott, Roger Wicker, Heidi 
Heitkamp, Chuck Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand, Ed Markey, Bill Nelson, 
Mark Begich, Elizabeth Warren, Al Franken, Joe Manchin, Robert Casey, 
Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Kay Hagan, Lindsey Graham, Brian Schatz, 
Richard Blumenthal, Jack Reed, Sheldon Whitehouse, Lisa Murkowski, Ron 
Wyden, Susan Collins and Debbie Stabenow.
  This bill does not incentivize unsustainable development--In order to 
participate in the National Flood Insurance Program, communities have 
to adopt national building codes governing new development in flood 
prone areas. Our bill provides basic consumer protections to homeowners 
that build to code and played by the rules. It does not alter or amend 
any rules governing new construction. The National Flood Insurance 
Program is one of the earliest examples of federal land use planning.
  It does not put American Taxpayers on the hook for a small sub-set of 
NFIP policyholders. Prior to Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, NFIP was 
basically self-sustaining with an average annual deficit under $20 
million over that 26-year span. The $24 billion debt incurred as a 
result of 2005 and 2008 storm seasons was the driving force behind the 
rate reforms in Biggert-Waters which required NFIP policyholders, not 
American taxpayers, to pay down that debt and establish a reserve fund 
for future catastrophic events. Our bill does not change that, it 
merely gives responsible policyholders a little more time to adjust to 
the higher premiums they have to pay as a result of Biggert-Waters.
  FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate estimates that the NFIP saves 
taxpayers $1.6 billion every year in avoided flood losses and disaster 
response costs due to the national building codes each participating 
community and policyholder were required to adopt and adhere to.
  I would also like to thank the following staff members for their hard 
work throughout this process: Jason Tuber, Kirby Mayo, Karissa Willhite 
and Tim Del Monico in Senator Menendez' office; Zack Rosenblum and 
Meghan Tiara in Senator Schumer's office; Joan Kirchner in Senator 
Isakson's office; Adam Telle in Senator Cochran's office; Travis 
Johnson in Senator Vitter's office; Claire O'Rourke, Liz Craddock, Matt 
Lehner and Wes Kungel in my office; Lisa Lederberger in Maxine Waters' 
office; Zach Butterworth in Cedric Richmond's office; Dill Dauster and 
Alex McDunah in Senator Reid's office and all of the exceptional floor 
staff. On behalf of myself, the Senate cosponsors, and the entire flood 
insurance reform coalition, thank you.

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