Unanimous Consent Request--S. 2344

Floor Speech

By:  Thomas Coburn
Date: May 15, 2012
Location: Unknown

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Mr. COBURN. We have had 14 short-term extensions to the National Flood Insurance Program. That is over the past 4 1/2 , 5 years. There is a bill set to be brought to the floor. Yet we are going to have a short-term extension again.

This program is not financially sound and it is not self-sustaining. It runs a $900 million deficit every year. What is the National Flood Insurance Program? Do we need it? Yes. Am I objecting that we do need it? No. But the vast majority of the moneys that are expended by hard-working Americans go to subsidize the insurance for homeowners of second and vacation homes. Multiple times in the Senate and in the House, both sides have concurred that this should be taken away, this subsidy for those in terms of second homes and vacation properties.

What I would expect, if we are going to do an extension, is that then we ought to do an extension with something that both bodies have already passed, which includes making those people who have properties eight times the average value of the rest of the homes in the flood insurance program carry their fair share of their insurance. So I am not inclined, no matter what happens to the flood insurance program, to allow us to continue to extend.

I would make one other point. We will not have time in December to fix this, with everything else that is coming

up. So the time to fix this is now. I will not object to the 5-year reauthorization coming to the floor. I don't think anybody on our side will as well. We should address this and be done with it. But another short-term extension is not what this country needs. We cannot afford losing another $900 million, plus the American taxpayer is on the hook for $1.34 trillion with this program right now. The average subsidy to the average home--not the vacation home--is over $1,000 a year.

I have no objection to supporting those who actually need our help, who are in flood-prone areas. But for those who have the tremendous benefit and the opportunity to have second and third homes, I think it is objectionable we continue to subsidize their purchase of flood insurance.

With that, I object.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The majority leader.

Mr. REID. Mr. President, before my friend leaves the floor, I hope we can do a short-term bill. As my colleague knows, the impediment to the regular function of the Senate this year has been the offering of irrelevant amendments. I am wondering if I could say through the Chair to my friend, the junior Senator from Oklahoma, what kind of agreement does he think we can get on the number of amendments on something like this?

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I would respond to the majority leader through the Chair and say I will help him in any way I could with my side of the aisle to make sure we have cogent amendments to this bill and also agree to a limited number of them, since it is important that we reauthorize this program.

Mr. REID. I say again through the Chair to my friend, how many amendments does he think he would need?

Mr. COBURN. One or two.

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Mr. COBURN. If the Senator from New Jersey will give me a courtesy of 5 minutes to speak as in morning business and I will be through.

I appreciate what the majority leader has said. I will work my side of the aisle, to see if the possibility of moving this is there and I will give it my 100-percent effort between now and next Monday when I see the majority leader to see if we cannot do it.

I will make a couple of points. Our Nation is in big trouble and we are not acting as if it is in big trouble. It seems that the way we are operating is from crisis to crisis. That is not good for the country, it is not good for the agencies, it is certainly not good for the individuals, and it makes it where we actually cannot do effective legislating.

The idea behind the flood insurance program is almost 50 years old. There is nothing wrong with its intent. But we cannot afford $900 million a year in subsidies to the very wealthy in this country for their second or vacation homes. If we are talking about fairness, as the President talks, then it is time to reform this program--whether it is with an extension or not--this component of it where there is a fair premium, where we are not subsidizing those who can in fact take care of themselves in this country.

Whether it is this bill or the farm bill where we are subsidizing 4 percent of the farmers with 60 percent of the crop insurance premium, it is the same issue.

I look forward to working with the majority leader and I will do my part to try to gather up the amendments that might be there and work with our leadership to try to bring this bill to the floor.

I thank the Senator from New Jersey.

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