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Small Business Jobs and Tax Relief Act--Motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. TOOMEY. Madam President, I rise to address the same topic that has been under discussion this afternoon by Senator Pryor, Senator Hoeven, and others. I strongly share the concern they have registered. I believe we have seriously flawed legislation in the form of this flood insurance reauthorization bill, and I think we are kind of compounding our problem by apparently inserting this into a transportation conference report rather than doing what we ought to do in the Senate, which is to have a debate about flood insurance.

This easily qualifies as a sufficiently important and substantive topic that we ought to bring it to the floor under regular order and consider the underlying policy, including the profound change in policy that is contemplated by the underlying bill and a very important amendment on which Senators Pryor and Hoeven have provided the leadership and of which I am a cosponsor, which I think absolutely deserves a vigorous debate and I would like to see passed.

One of the many concerns I have about what we are doing now is we are taking this flood insurance bill and apparently some are considering this bill to be at least a partial offset to some of the expenditures contemplated in the Transportation bill. For the life of me, I can't understand how this could possibly be a legitimate offset for spending. If it is a legitimate offset for spending, then that means it is net new revenue. But we are told this bill is supposed to be actuarially sound. It is supposed to be revenue neutral. The premiums being charged for this flood insurance are supposed to just equal out the payments that will have to be made in honoring claims against this fund. So I don't understand how that nets out to a source of net revenue that can be spent somewhere else. How many times can we spend the same money? The insurance premiums that are collected are supposed to be collected to honor the liabilities the Federal Government is taking on by virtue of this program, so how can it also go to pay for transportation projects? I don't understand that.

I also think there is a real fundamental problem that Senators Pryor and Hoeven have addressed, and that is the huge expansion of this mandate. We have in this underlying bill a Federal mandate that forces people to buy homeowner's insurance, and it forces a new category of people to buy homeowner's flood insurance, and the new category is those people who live behind a levee or a dam.

A lot of folks have contributed a lot of money over many years to building levees and dams precisely so that they would be protected from the risk of floods. In fact, that works every day all across America. Yet we are going to ask those people to also pay as though there were no levee there. This strikes me as a profoundly flawed approach. It completely ignores the investments these communities have made for years, and in the process it discourages future flood-mitigation measures. It discourages the maintenance of existing levees and dams. It discourages the building of additional ones. I think this is a bad idea. It is bad to create these kinds of incentives.

I will say candidly that this disproportionately has an adverse effect on States that have over the years a long history of building levees and dams. Pennsylvania would certainly be among those States. If you look at this map, it shows the counties in which there are levees and dams, and almost the entire Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is shaded in because we have levees and dams all across the Commonwealth. They work and they hold and people have invested to have that security, that protection.

Frankly, there are a lot of communities that would like to have additional levees and dams to have more protection than they have today. What this measure would do is it would say: Don't do that. What good does it do? You are still going to have to pay for flood insurance. I think this is a badly flawed approach.

Let me say once again that there is something very wrong with this process. This is a big deal. To ask 1 million to 2 million additional new Pennsylvanians--not to ask, to force them into a program where they would be forced to buy an insurance product whether they want it or not--by the way, nothing stops them from voluntarily choosing to purchase flood insurance, but that is not what this bill is about; the bill is about forcing them to buy this product. To think we are going to create this huge new mandate on what could be 2 million Pennsylvanians alone and many more millions across the country, to do it without a full debate on the Senate floor, without the opportunity to consider this legislation, without the opportunity to consider and debate and vote on amendments, I think is a big mistake.

I urge my colleagues to take a look at this map and to consider strongly insisting that the transportation conference report not include this legislation and that we proceed under regular order to debate a very important measure, which would be the reauthorization of the Flood Insurance Program.

I yield the floor.

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