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NATIONAL FLOOD INSURANCE PROGRAM
Mr. VITTER. Madam President, I rise to talk about another vital program we must reauthorize and continue before it expires; that is, the National Flood Insurance Program. Right now, that is due to completely expire at the end of May. So I wanted to bring this to everyone's attention, particularly that of the majority leader, so we take this up in time--as soon as possible--and put it in line absolutely as soon as possible so this can be extended and there will be no interruption.
This is an important program for the country. It provides vital flood insurance for millions of Americans. Many properties cannot have a real estate closing on them. They cannot be transferred without that important flood insurance. It is particularly important in my home State of Louisiana, where the risks of flooding--coastal and otherwise--are even greater than the national average.
Unfortunately, we have been on a path the last few years of just barely hobbling along, using a bandaid approach to extend this necessary program just a little bit at a time. This got to its worst state in 2010, when we not only extended it just a little bit at a time, but we actually allowed it to lapse, to expire, for several days at a time on four different occasions, for a total of 53 days. What happened? Each of those times the program expired, many real estate closings--tens of thousands of real estate closings around the country--came to a screeching halt. They were cancelled. They were put off.
So here we are, in a very soft economy and trying to eke out of a real estate-led recession. Yet for no good reason--because of our inability to, frankly, get our act together and organize ourselves and extend this noncontroversial program--we had lapses in the program so that thousands of real estate closings were put off. That lapse occurred, as I said, in 2010, four different times, for a total of 53 days.
Since then, we have improved a little bit. We have extended the program for 6 months at a time under legislation I have introduced. But now we need to take the next step and not just continue to hobble along but have a full reauthorization, with important bipartisan reforms, of this National Flood Insurance Program.
There has been a lot of work done in that regard. The House of Representatives has done a complete reauthorization bill, and they adopted that bill by an overwhelming vote of 406 to 22 last July 2. So they have acted. They have done their part going back going almost 1 year ago--about 9 months ago. On the Senate side, we have made important bipartisan progress in the Banking Committee, which is the committee of jurisdiction. We have worked hard to put together a full 5-year reauthorization bill with reforms on a bipartisan process.
As ranking member of the relevant subcommittee, I have put a lot of work into this with many others, including my subcommittee chairman Jon Tester. We reported that bill through the entire committee. It got a strong report out of committee and is ready for action on the Senate floor. So now we need to take that next step. We need to get it on the Senate floor, pass it through, and reconcile it with the House bill.
There are no major substantive obstacles. This is a true bipartisan effort. We have worked well together and through a number of issues. The only issue is getting time on the Senate floor and moving this forward so we can do this full-scale, 5-year reauthorization before the program expires this May 31.
Again, I just come to the floor to urge all of us, and in particular the majority leader who sets the schedule, to schedule this, to find that time, to put it in line as soon as possible. We are now on the Violence Against Women Act, which we support being on. I believe next we are moving to student loans. I have no problem with that. But let's put this important measure in line right after that, as soon as possible, so we can take it up and accomplish this task well before the May 31 deadline.
We can get this done. As I said, there are few, if any, substantive hurdles. We can get this done. We can produce a long-term reauthorization, we can produce good reforms in that bill, as we have in the Senate committee bill and as the House has. We just need to move it through the process. I certainly commit to everyone, starting with the majority leader, that if we get that minimal amount of time on the Senate floor, we will certainly work to have that process run as smoothly and as quickly as possible. I have worked with Senator Tester in that regard, toward that end, and we will continue to work through the remaining Senate proceedings.
Finally, in support of this plea, I have a letter, dated February 13 of this year, addressed to the majority and minority leaders from a long list of Senators, both parties, urging that we take this action, urging that we schedule this for the Senate floor absolutely as soon as possible so we can get this job done. As I said, this letter was dated February 13. Obviously, a few months have passed since then and the clock is ticking and that clock runs out on May 31.
Again, I urge us, particularly the majority leader, to please put this necessary and important and bipartisan legislation in line for floor consideration as soon as possible. We can get this done. We can get this done by the current deadline. We can get this done for the good of the American people and on a bipartisan basis and I urge us all to work toward that end, as Jon Tester and I have been doing and as the committee chair and ranking member have been doing. I certainly know the ranking member of the committee, Senator Shelby, strongly supports this plea.
At this time, I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record the letter to which I have just referred.
There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:
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Mr. VITTER. Again, I hope we all come together in plenty of time to take care of this important business. I bring it up now, well before the deadline, because the clock is ticking. A Senate bill would have to be reconciled with the House. We need to get floor time absolutely as soon as possible and I look forward to that happening and I look forward to working with Senator Tester and others on the Senate floor.
I yield the floor.
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