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Mrs. BIGGERT. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
I rise today to ask my colleagues for their support of H.R. 5740, the National Flood Insurance Program Extension Act.
The program is set to expire on May 31, and this critical legislation will spare property owners and the housing market from another lapse in the NFIP. It extends the National Flood Insurance Program's authorization for 30 days, until June 30. In addition, it would initiate several noncontroversial reforms to develop private sector options in the flood insurance market.
Like many of my colleagues--especially my good friend and cosponsor of both this bill and our long-term reauthorization, the gentlelady from California, Maxine Waters--I am frustrated that the House must consider yet another short-term extension. It has been 10 months since the House sent H.R. 1309, a comprehensive, bipartisan reform and a 5-year reauthorization measure, to the Senate.
Our Committee on Financial Services approved H.R. 1309 by a unanimous vote of 54 0 in the committee, and it passed on the House floor by a vote of 406 22. As part of that process, we secured the input and support of groups representing the views of everyone from taxpayers to businesses to wildlife defenders. And yet, after five additional short-term extensions, the Senate has still not considered any legislation to reform the NFIP. Instead, all we hear are excuses and rumors--that the administration doesn't want Congress to look productive, that floor time in the Senate is too precious, or that Senate leaders simply don't want to deal with possibly difficult amendments.
The time for excuses has run out. This program is more than $17 billion in debt to the taxpayers. We owe it to the homeowners, to the housing market, and to taxpayers to begin the process of fixing this program, even if we must do it 30 days at a time.
Today, we are sending to the Senate H.R. 5740. Should the Senate pass this short-term extension bill, it will have around 6 weeks from today to take up a flood reform measure and send it to the House. In the meantime, this 30-day extension will initiate key elements of our bipartisan House-passed reforms. It opens the door to private sector participation by asking FEMA and the GAO to study the cost and feasibility of private reinsurance, as well as the private market's capacity to provide new options for homeowners. It also says that private insurance coverage can take the place of government coverage to meet the requirements of lenders in flood-prone areas. The sooner we begin making these changes, the sooner taxpayers can stop bearing the full expense and risk of an outdated flood program.
Over the next 6 weeks, the Senate will have more than enough time to pass long-term reform. Again, last July, the House passed H.R. 1309 by an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote, 406 22. The House then sent this text to the Senate two additional times. In December, the House passed flood reform as part of H.R. 3630, the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act, and last week the House passed the same flood measure as part of H.R. 5652, the Reconciliation Act.
But this isn't like other partisan battles. It should not be that difficult. Even the White House is with us. In September 2011, President Obama released a statement in support of our reforms as part of his ``Plan for Economic Growth and Debt Reduction'' because the House bill would spare taxpayers from billions in losses.
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Johnson has secured committee approval of his own version, S. 1940, along with strong bipartisan support. And in February, 41 Senators--Republicans and Democrats--sent a letter to Senate leadership asking that Senate leaders Reid and McConnell schedule flood insurance reform for floor consideration.
There is simply no reason that in the next few days we cannot sit down and reconcile any differences that remain between the House and Senate visions for flood reform, and today's legislation will give the Senate time to make that a possibility. It will also begin the process of fixing the NFIP and protecting taxpayers from unnecessary risk.
I urge my colleagues to support this bill because this program is too important to let lapse and too in debt to continue without reform.
With that, I reserve the balance of my time.
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Mrs. BIGGERT. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
I thank the gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Scott) for managing this bill and for all of his mention of how important this is. I also would again like to thank the gentlelady from California (Ms. Waters) for being a cosponsor.
Mr. Speaker, I wish we did not have to be here on the floor once again with a short-term extension of the NFIP, but this program is too important to homeowners, to the housing market, and to the communities in the flood-prone areas for Congress to let it expire at the end of the month. It is also too in debt to continue without reform. And despite our best efforts in the House, the Senate has been unwilling or unable to pass a long-term NFIP reauthorization and reform bill.
As has been mentioned over and over, the House passed our 5-year NFIP reauthorization reform bill, H.R. 1309, last July with an overwhelming bipartisan majority of more than 400 votes. It also won unanimous support in the Financial Services Committee. But the Senate has not yet approved any version of flood reform. So here we are once again on the verge of a lapse in NFIP.
Mr. Speaker, the time has come to stop playing games with this important program and start enacting long-term reforms now. With today's bill, we begin that process. First, it extends the program for an additional month to spare property owners and the housing market from another lapse. In addition, it would initiate several noncontroversial reforms to develop private sector options in the flood insurance market. This is all part of the 5-year bill that we have.
Reforming the NFIP is simply too important to ignore. Our extension will give the Senate time to act, and it will begin the process of fixing NFIP to protect taxpayers from unnecessary risk.
With that, I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 5740, and I yield back the balance of my time.
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