WASHINGTON, D.C. — The House had been planning to vote this week on legislation that would spare hundreds of thousands of homeowners from steep flood insurance rate hikes that have begun to kick in. Now, that vote is on hold until next week as House leaders scramble to get enough members to support it.
"I think that what is happening is that there's honest dialogue and conversation going on to try to make sure that this is a bipartisan bill that can get the support of as many members as possible," said Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-Queens.
Meeks is pushing his colleagues to back the bill. It would help residents in his 5th District, whose homes were ravaged by Hurricane Sandy, avoid steep rate hikes.
He says he would vote for the legislation as is - but would like to see the scope of it expanded.
"We want to make sure also that small businesses are taken care of and covered under this piece of legislation as well as to make sure that's grandfathered-in individuals who have non-primary homes," Meeks said.
Republicans and Democrats who represent flood-prone areas support the bill, but that has not been enough to get it over the finish line. That's because a number of Democrats want to bill to go further.
Some conservative Republicans oppose any changes that would keep rates artificially low - a point echoed by groups that want to see the bill defeated.
"The thing is that you're basically - while risk is actually increasing over time - the rates will not be, and so eventually the fiscal health of this program is going to be damaged irrevocably," said Taxpayers for Common Sense vice president Steve Ellis.
The debate was sparked by a nearly two-year-old law that phases out flood insurance subsidies, but has caused rates to skyrocket. In January, the Senate passed its own bill to delay the rate hikes, and lawmakers there are now waiting for the House to take action.