Freedom First Society

Issue:  S. 1182, National Flood Insurance Program Extension Act of 2018, (Vehicle: The American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act.) Question: On Motion to Suspend the Rules and Pass, as Amended (2/3 vote required).

Result:  Agreed to in House, 366 to 52, 10 not voting.  Agreed to in Senate (Vote 173), July 31, 2018. Became Public Law 115-225 (signed by the President, 7-31-18).  GOP and Democrats scored.

Freedom First Society:  House Republicans and Democrats could not agree on “reform” of the unconstitutional and troubled 1968 National Flood Insurance Program.  So this is their seventh short-term extension (four months) of the “unreformed” program since its multi-year authorization expired last September.  51 Republicans and only 1 Democrat voted against this “business as usual.”

We have assigned (good vote) to the Nays and (bad vote) to the Yeas. (P = voted present; ? = not voting; blank = not listed on roll call.)

Bill Summary (from the Congressional Research Service):

Shown Here: Public Law No: 115-225 (07/31/2018)
National Flood Insurance Program Extension Act of 2018
(Sec. 2) This bill amends the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program through November 30, 2018.

Analysis: To understand and address the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), it is important to recognize its origins.

NFIP Origins

According to a report by the late Gary Allen in the June 1975 issue of American Opinion:

“The National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 is another of the land-grab statutes. [Promoted heavily by members of the Rockefeller-endowed political syndicate known as Thirteen-Thirteen.] It was created under Title Twenty-four of the Housing and Urban Development Act of that year, but it was updated and consolidated with other such acts under the Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973.   [Note: The United States Housing and Urban Development Department was created in 1965 during the Lyndon Johnson administration.]

“This legislation directed H.U.D. to designate all areas in the country that are subject to mudflows in any one year or to a one percent chance of being flooded (that’s a chance of one flood per century). An estimated ten thousand communities were thus subjected to the controls. Once designated, communities and citizens are coerced to join the flood insurance program. Those that refuse to participate find that federal monies are withheld — including federal insurance of banks and savings and loan associations….

To meet H.U.D.’s standards, designated communities are required to come up with a land-use plan acceptable to bureaucrats of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. They have so arranged their control structure that it could be necessary to get the permission of a bureaucrat to so much as move a hedge in your backyard.

“And these boys mean business. When only about twenty percent of the designated flood-prone communities had applied for participation as of May 1974, H.U.D. recommended in its ‘information kit on flood insurance’ that citizens who suffer loss in non-participating communities file damage suits against their local officials.

“Seeing the handwriting on the wall, the states now claim they must pass land-use laws or face federal harassment.” [Emphasis added.]

Constitutional Limitations

Nothing in the Constitution authorizes the federal government to provide state and local disaster aid.   At one time in our nation’s history, that was understood.

In one of his most famous vetoes, President Grover Cleveland rejected the “Texas Seed Bill” that would have provided minimal disaster assistance to a number of drought-stricken Texas counties. On February 16, 1886, Cleveland delivered his veto message to the House of Representatives. The following excerpt speaks to principles long ignored by today’s collectivist-oriented media:

“I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the General Government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit. A prevalent tendency to disregard the limited mission of this power and duty should, I think, be steadily resisted, to the end that the lesson should be constantly enforced that, though the people support the Government, the Government should not support the people.

“The friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve their fellow-citizens in misfortune. This has been repeatedly and quite lately demonstrated.  Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the Government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character, while it prevents the indulgence among our people of that kindly sentiment and conduct which strengthens the bonds of a common brotherhood.”

Our Freedom Is in Danger

The great majority of what the federal government does today is unconstitutional. The number of unconstitutional agencies and programs has exploded since World War II.   The resulting federal monster is now bankrupting our nation and reducing the middle class.  It ultimately targets our freedom.   It must be tamed, and the Constitution provides the essential standard for doing so.

Instead of asserting an unconstitutional responsibility to provide disaster aid, government’s main responsibility should be to get us out of the unconstitutional mess it has created.  The fact that Congress often requires years to accomplish even the most basic reforms suggest that the size of the bureaucracy it has created now exceeds the ability of Congress to manage it.

Correcting the mess doesn’t necessarily mean going “cold turkey” on all unconstitutional spending.   In some cases, it just means letting programs run their course and expire. But restoring constitutional government does means slashing the enormous borrowing, taxing, and spending of the federal government, so the states can acquire the revenue to do what the voters want their states to do and the voters have the means to provide private charity and “strengthen the bonds of a common brotherhood.”

It well to keep in mind Napoleon Bonaparte’s succinct assessment: “The purely defensive is doomed to defeat.”  Freedom will not survive unless there is leadership to roll back prior socialist big-government gains.

Lack of Transparency

The House passage of this four-month extension of the National Flood Insurance Program, quickly approved by the Senate and signed into law by the President, reflected an exceptional lack of transparency. More than two weeks after the House vote and a week after it became public law, the clerk’s listing of roll calls still only showed Roll Call 373 as a vote on S. 1182, “The American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act,” as amended.

Rather than introducing its own legislation, the House leadership chose to use a prior year’s Senate bill, S. 1182, as a “legislative vehicle.”  The amended legislation contains no mention of the Commemorative Coin Act.  Actually, the American Legion got its Commemorative Coin approved last October as a House bill.

The use of “legislative vehicles” is an unfortunate, but common congressional practice.  The justification for their use is that amending an existing bill is easier procedurally, requiring less time or votes, than introducing a new bill.  However, the public seeking to monitor Congress suffers. And in this case, the House’s use of a Senate bill as the vehicle conveniently bypasses its own sham requirement that a “constitutional authority statement” must accompany every H.R. or H.J. Res.

The House “Debate”

During the House “debate” on S. 1182 (see excerpts, below), several GOP representatives argued that the flood insurance program desperately needed reform.  Some held their nose and voted for another clean extension without any reform, while others said enough was enough and refused to go along.

But none of those taking the floor objected that the Constitution did not permit the program and that it should therefore be eliminated.  Nor was there any criticism of the Federal Government’s initial involvement with flood insurance in 1968.  (Note: Prior to 1968, the nation somehow was able to cope with floods and hurricanes.  Volunteers, churches, and other private not-profit organizations provided a great amount of relief.)

As you read the excerpts also keep in mind that the necessity for federal involvement has been effectively rebutted. In “Disaster Relief — Flooded with Errors,” Sheldon Richman of the Cato Institute argued persuasively that floods are an “insurable risk”:

“[T]here is incontrovertible proof that flood damage is insurable. Some private insurers, such as Lloyds of London, offer unsubsidized flood insurance. The drawback to private insurance is that it is about ten times the cost of government insurance.” — Wall Street Journal, July 8, 1993

Excerpts from Congressional Record (7-24-18) [Emphasis added.]:

Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas 05) (Financial Services Committee Chairman):  “Mr. Speaker, I come to the floor today to do something I do not often  do, and that is: I have asked my leadership to put a bill on the floor that I do not support.  I am talking about the bill that would provide for a non-reform reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program through the end  of November. To make it very clear, Mr. Speaker, I believe this program needs to be reauthorized, and the House has done its work. The House passed a bill with reforms last November. Never underestimate the Senate’s capacity to do nothing.   Unfortunately, the Senate has done nothing.

“But this is a program,  Mr. Speaker, that continues to be in dire need of reform. And now, we have reauthorized it without reforms, not once, not twice, not three  times, not four times, not five times, but six times since the  Financial Services Committee first reported this bill out. Enough is enough.

“Mr. Speaker, in America, we lost 116 lives last year to flooding,  with billions and billions of dollars of property loss, and, yet, we have a program unreformed that incents people to live in harm’s way. We should not be doing this, Mr. Speaker.  I went and I visited with those who survived Hurricane Harvey, people that were close to your district, people whose homes had flooded three times in the last 8 years, and I heard harrowing tales of survival. And, yet, we have a program that says, you know what? We are going to help rebuild your same home in the same fashion in the same place. Hope you survive next time. That is just wrong, Mr. Speaker.

“And, yes, we need more mitigation money. We need better flood control  projects. The House bill had more flood mitigation money than any other reform bill, but this bill before us has no reforms.  Finances: This is a program that the taxpayer has subsidized so far by $40 billion. Some of the debt has been forgiven, but it runs a billion-and-a-half dollar deficit every single year, Mr. Speaker. It is  unsustainable.The Congressional Budget Office says it, the GAO says  it, the OMB says it. It is an unsustainable program. The finances do not work.

And then last, but not least, Mr. Speaker, it is a government  monopoly. It is a government monopoly when people could, through a competitive marketplace, actually get more affordable flood insurance.  And that is just not a theory. That is happening as we speak.   In the small little bit of the marketplace that is open to competition, people are saving hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in  places like Pennsylvania, and in places like Florida….

“Mr. Speaker, deja vu all over again. This House has been here many times before. In fact, we have had 41 reauthorizations of this program, 38 with no reforms.   So, a vote for S. 1182 is a vote for the status quo. And what is the  status quo? The status quo is people in harm’s way who have homes that flood five, six, seven, and eight times, putting their lives in danger  and burdening the taxpayer at the same time.   A vote for S. 1182 is a vote to ensure that we continue to have more red ink as far as the eye can see. Mr. Speaker, $40 billion of taxpayer subsidies to the program already. A vote for S. 1182 is a vote to  protect a government monopoly….

“Well, the irony is, if we had market competition, we would have more affordable flood insurance, but we don’t have market competition.   When is enough enough? When do we finally act? If we can vote down this, we can vote in favor of reforms, which is what we should have done in the first place. For us to do the same thing over and over  again and expect a different result, we all know, Mr. Speaker, is the  very definition of insanity.   I have no doubt this thing will be voted ‘aye,’ but it shouldn’t be, and it is a sad day for the House.”

Freedom First Society:  Although as Committee Chair, Rep. Hensarling called for a House vote on a clean extension, the unhappy Representative did follow through on his objections and vote “nay.”  Nevertheless, he didn’t voice any objections to reauthorizing “reformed” federal flood insurance.  Constitutional limitations were apparently not on his radar screen.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif 43) (Ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee): “Mr. Speaker, since the National Flood Insurance Program’s multiyear  authorization expired on September 30, 2017, ideological differences have led Congress to pass six short-term extensions, and have even  allowed the program to briefly lapse twice since the government shutdowns.   More than 5 million families rely on the NFIP for affordable flood insurance coverage. Communities rely on the NFIP for flood maps and  mitigation assistance, and small businesses rely on the NFIP to pick up  the pieces when the inevitable storm hits. Yet, the long-term stability  of this critical program continues to fall victim to partisan politics….

“Mr. Speaker, I am deeply disappointed that Congress continues to miss  opportunities to responsibly help homeowners, businesses, and renters  who all need access to affordable flood insurance by taking sensible steps to stabilize flood insurance premiums, deal with the NFIP’s debt and invest in up-to-date and accurate flood maps. Instead, the House has passed controversial and ideological reforms that make flood insurance more expensive, less available, and less fair, which is, obviously, going nowhere in the Senate.

“Given the critical importance of the NFIP to our housing market, I am pleased that we are taking the small step today of reauthorizing the program for 4 months to at least provide some level of certainty to  businesses and families, but let us not be fooled into thinking that our work is done. I have led the effort for years to provide long-term reauthorizations of the NFIP that also ensure the affordability and the availability of flood insurance, and I will continue to do so when this latest short-term extension expires in November….

“Mr. Speaker, partisan gamesmanship and harmful reforms passed out of the House stalled the NFIP’s long-term reauthorization for long enough.  While I would prefer a longer term reauthorization of this important program, I strongly support today’s 4-month extension to provide  homeowners, businesses, renters, and communities with the certainty  they deserve.

“But make no mistake. This short-term reauthorization does not absolve  Congress of its responsibility to reauthorize the flood insurance  program for the long term. It is past time for Congress to do its job  and pass a long-term reauthorization that will ensure Americans are  protected this and every hurricane season to come…. We must put  partisanship and ideology aside and ensure the continued affordability and availability of coverage for millions of Americans.”

Freedom First Society: Rep. Waters seems to mean “put the Constitution aside.” The principles that support freedom, such as constitutionally limited government, should not be trivialized as “ideological differences” or “partisan politics.”

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Missouri 05): “This bill would provide a clean, 4-month extension for the  NFIP.   Now, I do plan to vote in favor of this bill, but I do so with deep  consternation that we are, yet again, passing a short-term reauthorization. This will be the seventh short-term extension for the  NFIP in the last 10 months. This is somewhat embarrassing, or should  be, to all of us.   If we fail to reauthorize the program, the NFIP will not be able to issue new policies, and borrowing authority would be limited. A lapse  in authorization during the height of hurricane season could have  serious ramifications for communities that have already weathered last  year’s severe storms….

“Affordability must remain a central component of any long-term plan  to revamp the NFIP. Rates are already increasing for many policyholders, and we need to ensure that homeowners who rely on the  NFIP for protection are not priced out of the program….

“To be sure, I am pleased that we are voting to keep the NFIP up and  running for the next 4 months, but I remain concerned that we have been  unable to agree on a long-term plan. I again urge my colleagues to come to the table in a bipartisan manner for a solution and for the updating  of the NFIP.”

Freedom First Society:  “Come to the table in a bipartisan manner” means ignore the Constitution and compromise with socialists.

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana 01) (GOP Majority Whip):  “Why are we here, Mr. Speaker? We are here because, first of all, the House did take strong action to pass a 5-year reauthorization of NFIP that included really important reforms, reforms that I was happy to work with the chairman on to pass through the House. But, ultimately, as the bill went over to the Senate, we kept hearing  story after story that the Senate was going to pass something, and then a month would go by and another month would go by, and, ultimately, the  Senate still hasn’t passed anything to reauthorize this program. So it leaves us here literally days before the program expires.

“Mr. Speaker, we can’t play some game of chicken with the lives of  millions of families that represent, by the way, all 50 States. All 50 States participate in the National Flood Insurance Program. This isn’t something that just applies to coastal communities. You have got every inland State as well that have families that rely on this program to  work.

“Mr. Speaker, what kind of program would we like to see? I would love  to see a vibrant marketplace with private sector company after private sector company that would offer options to families just like we have with car insurance or homeowners insurance. But we don’t have that today.  So what we need to do is usher in reformslike the Ross-Castor  legislation, Mr. Speaker, that I am a cosponsor of. Ross-Castor, by the way, was included in the House-passed bill.

“There are other important reforms…. But at the midnight hour, let’s  at least keep this program going for a few more months while we  continue negotiating, and let’s get a long-term deal that actually has the reforms that will make this a sustainable program with private  sector involvement for years to come.   Mr. Speaker, I urge a ‘yes’ vote.”

Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Michigan 02) (Subcommittee Chairman): “Mr. Speaker, I rise today with deep hesitation in supporting another clean extension of the National Flood Insurance  Program through November of this year. While I completely agree that  letting this program lapse in the middle of hurricane season is deeply  problematic, it is inconceivable to me that even extremely modest  reforms to this troubled program are not included in this legislation

“The House amendment to S. 1182 is a simple piece of legislation with  a simple extension. What is notable, however, is the fact that the legislation contains none of the reforms passed by this House in a  bipartisan manner in November, nor does the legislation contain any of  the more modest reforms recently introduced by my colleagues from  California and Oregon, Representatives Royce and Blumenauer.

“Mr. Speaker, as the gentleman from Missouri said, this will be extension number 7 in less than a year. This is even after Congress forgave that $16 billion in NFIP debt, all while fewer than 2 percent of the 5 million policies that are out there have absorbed more than $8  billion in payments.    These numbers are staggering.

“Instead of passing clean extension  after clean extension, the Senate should — no, wait a minute — the Senate  must do its job and take up bipartisan reform that we passed in  November.”

Freedom First Society:  Rep. Huizenga voted yea.

Rep. Al Green (D-Texas 09): “While we have different reasons for being opposed to a temporary fix, the truth is we have no choice at this point.  In about a week, the program will expire…. We must reauthorize. And 4 months, while it seems like it is an inappropriate amount of time, does give us some additional time. My hope is that we will come to some conclusion that will be acceptable such that we can have a long-term extension.”

Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif. 39): “Mr. Speaker, we stand here doing what we  have done, I guess, 38 times now since 1998, and that is passing an  extension of the National Flood Insurance Program without the much-needed reforms that should be in that program. This is unacceptable.

Subsidized flood insurancerepresents what economists call a moral  hazard,and let me tell you why. We tell Americans that if you buy flood insurance from Uncle Sam, no matter how many times your house  floods, we will give you money to rebuild it.   We haven’t worked to decrease that moral hazard through reform;  rather, we have embraced and refueled it, and we make it more difficult  for people to move than rebuild.  We fail to encourage communities to mitigate flood risk. We continue to build in high-risk areas. The clearest sign of moral hazard is the number of repeatedly flooded properties that are rebuilt with little deference to mitigation. I will give you some examples: A $90,000 home in Missouri has been flooded, now, 34 times, at a cost of more than $600,000; A $56,000 home in Louisiana flooded more than 40 times at a cost of  $430,000; A $72,000 home in Texas that flooded again last year cost taxpayers over $1 million in payouts.

“I came to the floor today hoping to support a bill that Mr. Blumenauer and I authored that would have extended the flood program with what The Wall Street Journal called de minimis policy changes that have broad, bipartisan support, which would do something about the fact that you have got fewer than 2 percent of the 5 million policies that  have absorbed more than $8 billion of the payments because we don’t have these reforms. That is not in this bill before us.  Unfortunately, I oppose this can-kicking exercise, and I urge my  colleagues to do the same.

Freedom First Society:  The “needed reform” is to refuse to reauthorize this unconstitutional federal intrusion in the marketplace and squandering of taxpayer dollars.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon 03):  “Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the gentlewoman’s courtesy  in permitting me to speak on this, and I am pleased to follow my friend  from California (Mr. Royce).   This is troubling for me, his reference here to 38 extensions without  reform. I have been working on this for 20 years. This is the 41st  time, and we had one back in 2004 with my friend, Doug Bereuter, where  we had some small steps, but they were anticipatory of being able to  make greater reforms.

“I am vexed that we continue to move forward and dodge some hard  facts. We are subsidizing too much for people who grow complacent.   I am concerned about affordability. There are things we can do to deal with affordability, but that doesn’t mean to have massive subsidization for people who don’t need it and, in fact, encourage people to be in harm’s way and, in fact, after they are flooded out, to  go back, putting them in harm’s way again.  There are simple, commonsense steps we can take….

“I am deeply troubled that we are going to do this again without dealing with the problems.  I just want to say that it is not just financial hardship and it is  not just wasting of money. Our failure to reform the Flood Insurance  Program puts people at risk. Every one of these massive events shows  that people will go back, trying to deal with a family member; they are dealing with their business, or they are dealing with a pet. People die because we fail to take steps to reform and make it work right….

“There is a path forward. This bill is not the path forward. I don’t want it to lapse. I don’t want disruption. But it is hard for me to sit here and vote ‘yes’ for something that doesn’t do the minimum.We don’t do anybody any favors along this path.”

Freedom First Society: Hooray for Rep. Blumenauer!  He was the only Democrat with the courage to vote against extending this business-as-usual travesty (even though he supported the underlying unconstitutional program).

Rep. Garret Graves (R-Louisiana 06) (Subcommittee Chairman):  “Mr. Speaker, do you really believe people want to be flooded? Do you  think people want to have everything they own underwater and have to throw it all out?   Anybody who believes that has obviously never stepped foot in a flooded home, never spoken to a flood victim.   Do you really think people intentionally want to build their home in  a place that is going to flood so all their family heirlooms are flooded and lost? That whole concept is irrational….

“I represent the State of Louisiana. We drain from Montana to two Canadian provinces to New York. All that water comes and drains down through our State. It is one of the largest watersheds in the world. More water is coming to us now.  So, yes, we are more vulnerable. But the people who live in these homes and businesses are innocent. Folks are trying to charge them more  for something they have no control over. That is not American. That is not okay….

“I agree that we need to reform these programs, but we need to do it in a way that does not penalize the innocent. Until we get to that point, we need to do an extension to provide certainty and to ensure we make it through  hurricane season, and we have a rational debate.”

Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wisconsin 07) (Subcommittee Chairman):  “This is a rich conversation. I am hearing my colleagues saying: We are almost out  of time. We have to reauthorize the program. We can’t let it expire.   The truth is, we have known for months that this program was going to  expire. We have known. And many of us have tried to go to those who  have disagreed on any kind of flood reform to craft a deal, to craft a compromise, but, lo and behold, there was no willingness to come  together and find a compromise on flood reform.  It was: No, no. We want to come to the very end and pretend like it is a crisis and we have to extend the program because we can’t put people in harm’s way.

“By the way, this program puts people in harm’s way. We know that people don’t want to flood, just like people don’t want to get in a car crash and they don’t want their house to burn. But if 2 times, 4 times, 10 times someone’s house burns, we might say: Hey, we have got a  problem with that. Maybe we should look at where you are living.   If someone gets in a car crash 2 times, 5 times, 10 times, 15 times, we might say: Hey, you have got a problem, maybe, with your driving. But with flood insurance, we say: Listen, you can flood 1 time, 5 times, 10 times — and guess what? You can flood 10 times, 15 times, and  your premiums don’t go up at all. You are grandfathered in.   When my daughter crashed our car twice, guess what happened to my premiums? They went through the roof. But with flood insurance, your premiums don’t go up.

“Let’s fix this program. There are commonsense reforms that we can  implement…. Maybe we could find some little bit of reform that could make the program work better. It is $20.5 billion in debt, and we already forgave $16 billion in debt. It is under water, to use a pun.   Let’s work on fixing it.  Let’s help people get out of harm’s way.  Reform does that, Mr. Speaker. Let’s get it done.”

Freedom First Society:  Rep. Duffy voted “nay.”  But repeal not “reform” should be the goal.

Excerpts from Congressional Record (7-25-18) [Emphasis added.]:

Rep. Mark MEADOWS (R-North Carolina 11):

“Mr. Speaker, earlier this afternoon I voted for final passage of the House Amendment to S. 1182 — National Flood Insurance Program Extension Act of 2018 (Roll No. 373). I intended to vote against final passage of this legislation.”

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