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Senate Leaders Seek to Pass House Flood-Insurance Bill

Senate leaders are seeking agreement to quickly pass a House flood-insurance bill to avert steep premium increases for property owners in coastal states such as Florida, Louisiana and New Jersey, Senate aides said.

The House passed the measure, H.R. 3370, on a 306-91 vote March 4. It would limit increases to 15 percent of the average rate in a particular flood zone or 18 percent for each individual policy.

Congress is under pressure to enact rate relief after administrators of the National Flood Insurance Program began sending notices of policy increases to property owners.

The rate increases were mandated by a 2012 law intended to cut the flood-insurance fund’s $24 billion debt by charging premiums more closely reflecting the true risk. Proponents of the measure said that caused steep increases that middle-class homeowners can’t afford.

Senate backers of the legislation are seeking swift passage of the House bill instead of reconciling it with Senate legislation passed in January, said a Republican leadership aide and a Democratic aide. The two spoke on condition of anonymity because they aren’t authorized to publicly discuss Senate leaders’ plans. Congress has a break the week of March 17.

Flood insurance has become an issue in the U.S. Senate contest in Louisiana between Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu, a Senate bill sponsor, and Republican challenger Representative Bill Cassidy, a sponsor of the House plan.

The version passed by the House was a compromise by Republican leaders and Democrats led by California Representative Maxine Waters, the top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee.

Landrieu said she supported the House bill because it contained the “important affordability protections” that she had sought. The Senate bill is S. 1926.

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