Congress

Flood insurance gets renewal as disaster aid remains stalled

The package will instead likely pass the House on Monday when that chamber returns for recorded votes

Rep. John Rose, R-Tenn., attends a House Financial Services Committee organizational meeting in Rayburn Building on January 30, 2019. On Thursday Rose became the third Republican to object to clearing disaster aid legislation by unanimous consent. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A bipartisan $19.1 billion disaster aid bill hit another speed bump in the House on Thursday, but the National Flood Insurance Program got an extension. 

The disaster aid package, which received final sign-off from Republicans and Democrats as well as the Trump administration a week ago, was blocked when a third GOP congressman who objected to clearing the legislation through unanimous consent. It will instead likely pass the House on Monday when that chamber returns for recorded votes.

The House did, however, pass by unanimous consent a two-week extension of the National Flood Insurance Program, which had been set to expire at the end of this week. The Senate passed the measure by voice vote before leaving town May 23.

[GOP Rep. causes $19.1 billion disaster aid bill to stall in House]

Without an extension, the Federal Emergency Management Agency would not have been able to issue new flood insurance policies, which federal law requires properties in certain flood zones. That had the potential to disrupt home sales while the program was expired. 

Tennessee Republican Rep. John W. Rose blocked unanimous consent Thursday. Rose follows in the footsteps of Republicans Rep. Chip Roy of Texas who prevented its passage last Friday and Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie, who objected to sending the bill to the White House on Tuesday.

[Who is Rep. Chip Roy?]

“This is absolutely, without a doubt wrong,” Rose said about trying to pass nearly $20 billion in new spending while the majority of Congress is not in Washington.

After months of negotiations, lawmakers reached agreement on May 23 to provide billions of dollars to states and territories recovering from a series of deadly storms and wildfires.

The final package, which dropped a divisive request for aid to process the surge of migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, would provide $4.6 billion to help farms and rural communities rebuild after storms and other severe weather dating back to 2017, with $3 billion of that going toward direct reimbursements for lost crops and livestock.

There’s also $3.25 billion for Army Corps of Engineers disaster mitigation projects, $3.2 billion to rebuild military bases and Coast Guard facilities and $2.4 billion for Community Development Block Grants to rebuild homes and businesses, among other funds. 

The deal came after the House had taken its last roll call votes before the weeklong Memorial Day break, so House leaders needed to either ask for unanimous consent during a pro forma session, or wait until lawmakers return to the Capitol for a roll call vote.

[Senate to take one last shot at disaster, border aid bill]

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, told reporters Tuesday that both Republicans House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, of California, and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, of Louisiana, agreed to clear the bill through unanimous consent. But that didn’t stop the three Republican members from objecting to its passage.

Their key issues are the manner in which the legislation could have been passed, the fact that it adds to the deficit and that it does not including additional funds requested by the administration to address a surge of migrants at the Mexican border.

The bill is broadly bipartisan, passing the Senate by a vote of 85-8 last week, meaning it’s likely to see swift passage once the House returns for votes Monday.

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