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Strike three for flood insurance premium hike delay

Rate hikes for troubled NFIP still in play

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Republicans stopped an effort to force a vote on H.R. 3370, which would delay pending flood insurance premium hikes under the National Flood Insurance Program.

Democrats in the House of Representatives on Tuesday lead a third attempt to force a vote on a bill, employing a procedural motion called the "previous question" to bring up the flood bill.

Last week, House Republicans twice blocked a similar effort on the House floor. The bill Democrats wanted would impose a four-year delay on federal flood insurance premium hikes.

A version of this legislation on Thursday passed the U.S. Senate 67-32. Supporters want to stall provisions of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012.

Biggert Waters, which was passed to ensure the National Flood Insurance Program moves closer to solvency and sound underwriting, tried to incorporate a more risk-based approach when setting premiums for insurance offered through NFIP. 

A few months after it was passed, homeowners battling higher premiums were already pressuring lawmakers to carve back new premium hikes, creating just one more battle over flood insurance.

The NFIP is already $24 billion in debt as it operates now.

Critics say that continuing to subsidize flood insurance through the NFIP is not the answer, especially in the face of growing flood risks from sea level rise, and that ffordability concerns are valid but there are better ways to help homeowners, particularly low-income and fixed-income property owners.

From the standpoint of reform hawks, reforms to the NFIP are needed to ensure policyholders pay actuarially sound premiums, allowing for a gradual transition away from situations where the Treasury is having to bail out the program.

But many of the changes, which took effect in recent months, led to substantial backlash, prompting politicians in both parties to push for delays as homeowners reacted to sudden flood insurance rate hikes.

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