WASHINGTON The Senate passed legislation Thursday afternoon to postpone flood insurance premium increases that have already begun to go into effect around the country.
Lawmakers voted 67-32 in favor of the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, with the debate now moving over to the House. The bill would delay premium increases set to go into effect under flood insurance reforms passed in 2012 until the Federal Emergency Management Agency completes an affordability study of the issue. Banks, homeowners and others in flood-prone areas had warned that premiums could rise to unsustainable levels for some previously paying subsidized rates. The new rates began to phase in last October.
"I am delighted that the Senate came together in a bipartisan manner to protect millions of Americans from the steep increases in their annual flood insurance premiums," said Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., one of the bill's co-sponsors, in a statement. "Without action, many Americans and Georgians could lose their homes or see their home values plummet.
Still, critics have warned that the delays could exacerbate the National Flood Insurance Program's financial woes, an issue also raised by the White House in a statement of administration policy earlier this week.
The debate now turns to the House, where a companion bill with more than 180 cosponsors has been introduced. It's unclear if Republican leaders will take up the legislation for a vote.
"Tens of thousands of homeowners are now looking to Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor for the relief they need so badly," said Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., a co-sponsor on the House legislation. "I, along with so many of them, believe the House should act immediately to ensure this bipartisan legislation is enacted into law."