Today, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Committee on Financial Services, made the following statement regarding H.R. 3823 on the House floor:
As Prepared for Delivery
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise today in opposition to this bill, which began as a must-pass reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration, but has now become a Christmas tree for unrelated Republican priorities. Puerto Rico is on the brink of a humanitarian crisis following Hurricane Maria that is being exacerbated by Trump’s and Congress’s failure to adequately respond. Tens of thousands in Texas and Florida are just beginning to pick up the pieces following Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and yet other than the small initial down payment of disaster aid we passed – which I might add Chairman Hensarling voted against – Congress has yet to pass a single policy reform that will actually improve the lives of any of those who found themselves in harm’s way.
This is the first time in this Congress that we are debating a flood insurance policy change on the House floor. However, this is not a policy change that would address the resilience of the flood insurance program, help families to recover or improve our country’s response to natural disasters. No, the Republican response to the catastrophic storms of these last two months is to muscle through the expansion of private flood insurance, which has long been sought by the insurance industry. Now, let me be clear. I don’t oppose this policy. I voted for it last Congress and I voted for it when we marked it up in Committee this year. But moving this bill, at this time, while ignoring all the other policy responses needed for the flood insurance program and the ongoing natural disasters in our country, is simply irresponsible.
The NFIP will expire on December 8 of this year and we still lack a credible plan to ensure that it is reauthorized for the long term. Therefore, I will oppose any and all efforts to break apart the debate on substantive reforms to the NFIP from the reauthorization debate we should so desperately be having.
The bill before us today does absolutely nothing to address the stability of the NFIP, which is in jeopardy following a devastating series of catastrophic hurricanes across several States and U.S. territories. We know that we will need to increase the NFIP’s borrowing authority so that policyholders from Harvey, Irma, and Maria can be made whole, but the Chairman has no plan to deal with the debt, frequently telling those of us that have urged him to consider debt forgiveness, to just forget about that idea.
I have long called for Congress to forgive the NFIP’s debt, particularly because of the unsustainable burden placed on policyholders paying hundreds of millions of dollars a year just on the interest for the government to pay itself back. Flood insurance is already unaffordable – so why are we continuing to make it worse by saddling policyholders with interest on a debt that will never be repaid? We need thoughtful, comprehensive solutions to a long-term reauthorization that addresses the debt, affordability, mapping and mitigation, and that is not what we have before us today.