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NATIONAL FLOOD INSURANCE PROGRAM
Mr. VITTER. Madam President, I come to the Senate floor to discuss another very important issue for our economy, which is the National Flood Insurance Program.
The National Flood Insurance Program is a vital Federal program that helps provide flood insurance for properties all across the country. It is absolutely vital to citizens and to our economy, to the real estate market, to closings which cannot happen without this type of insurance in many instances. It is important all across the country. It is nowhere more important than in Louisiana, which, unfortunately, has pretty severe flooding risks.
In the last few years, we have extended this necessary and important program but sometimes with real fits and starts and even lapses of the program. As you know, Madam President, in 2010, it got worse than ever. Congress allowed the National Flood Insurance Program to lapse four times--for a total of 53 days--for no good reason. It was not a money issue; it was not a cost issue; it was not a deficit issue because continuation of the program along the current structure does not raise deficit and debt. But we had these deadlines that kept approaching, and we let, in many instances--in four instances--the deadline actually come and the program to lapse--four times in 2010, for a total of 53 days.
That had enormous negative consequences. Real estate closings that were scheduled to happen had to be canceled. Here we are in the middle of a horrendous recession--clearly the worst since World War II--led by problems in the real estate market, and we had good, solid real estate closings which had to be put off and canceled for no good reason. Really crazy.
We learned a little bit from that experience, and this year, in 2011, we have done better. We have continued the program without lapse. But I am afraid we are getting back into this habit of extremely short-term extensions, which brings with it the threat of lapses. We extended the program a few weeks ago, but we only extended it for the duration of the current CR, until this December 16. So, again, the program is set to completely expire nationwide this December 16.
The ultimate solution is a long-term, full reauthorization of the flood insurance program. I support that full 6-year bill, and we have voted out of the Senate Banking Committee a full, long-term, 6-year reauthorization bill. However, that is not going to pass into law between now and December 16, and it is pretty clear it is not going to pass into law for several months.
That is why I am urging all of us to come together in a bipartisan fashion in the meantime to pass a clean extension of the program for the remainder of this fiscal year, through September 30, 2012, or for some significantly long time within that year. I think that is needed right now to assure the real estate market there will not be disruptions, to take that threat and that uncertainty out of the market and out of the line of closings, that we want to encourage, we want to build, as we try to build up the real estate market and the economy in general.
Because I believe this is clearly the right path, I have done two things. First, I have filed that extension, that clean extension--a bill under my name--through September 30, 2012. This is very similar to the extension we passed in late 2010 to get us through that fiscal year to September 30, 2011. That was my bill. We passed it unanimously here in the Senate, again, to avoid these deadlines and disruptions, which hamper economic recovery. So I filed that bill. That would be a clean extension of the program through September 30, 2012.
The second thing I did today is write Senator Reid, the majority leader, and ask him to focus on this important program and the need for this extension as soon as possible, and to hotline it through the Senate, to ask for unanimous consent from both sides, all Members, as we did about a year ago, pass this so we extend this important, vital program through September 30, 2012, or some similar, significant timeframe.
Again, I wrote Senator Reid today to highlight this need. I will be following up with him. I have already followed up and talked to many other interested Members, starting with those leaders on the Banking Committee under whose jurisdiction this falls.
This should be a no-brainer. This should be a completely nonpartisan or bipartisan exercise. This is not some big ideological dispute. This is simply extending, continuing a vital, necessary program without in any way increasing deficit and debt, in a way that we take out uncertainty, take out the specter of this necessary program lapsing yet again, as it did four times in 2010, for a total of 53 days.
We cannot let this lapse. And, quite frankly, we should not even go near the deadline before we extend it because that in and of itself--even if we do not technically allow it to lapse--creates uncertainty and chaos in the real estate market and disrupts real estate closings.
We need every good real estate transaction we can get. We need every bit of additional economic activity we can get in this horrible economy, this recession that was led by a bad real estate market. We need to lead recovery with a recovering real estate market. So let's do this in a simple, straightforward, commonsense, bipartisan way in that effort. We did it around my bill in that nearly full-year extension about a year ago. Let's do it again.
In closing, I want to underscore I am fully committed to the full, detailed 6-year reauthorization bill. It has come out of the Senate Banking Committee. It needs to pass through the Senate. We need to resolve differences with the House. We need to pass that into law. But that is not going to happen between now and December 16, and it is not going to happen for several months. So, in the meantime, let's remove the threat of disruption, of lapses in the program, of uncertainty. All of that is extremely harmful in this very fragile economy.
Madam President, I yield the floor.
I suggest the absence of a quorum.
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