Last week, Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), blocked an extension of unemployment benefits, claiming that they objected to granting the extension without offsetting it with a spending cut elsewhere. Last month, Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) and a handful of his Republican allies did the same thing, with Bunning telling Democrats who wanted to pass an extension by unanimous consent “tough sh*t.”
But it wasn’t only unemployment benefits that expired: the same package that the Republicans blocked also included extenders for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). And the critical nature of NFIP was brought into the spotlight this week, as many northeastern states have been battered with record amounts of rainfall, which has led to widespread flooding.
Flooding in Rhode Island was the worst it’s been in 100 years, with some rivers “several feet above all-time records.” Boston saw its wettest March since record keeping began in 1872, while “bridges and highways have washed out from Maine to Connecticut and sewage systems have been overwhelmed to the point that families were asked to stop flushing toilets.” National Guard troops have been mobilized to aid residents in both Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
According to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, there are 5.5 million flood insurance policy holders in flood plains, and as of this week, homeowners were rendered unable to renew their policies. If any of those homeowners were victims of the current flooding, they will “face complications” filing claims. As Blain Rethmeier, spokesman for the American Insurance Association, put it, “it’s unfortunate that the NFIP has fallen victim to the political process”:
Ultimately the people who will suffer the most are property owners who need new coverage or who need to renew their flood insurance policies. One can only hope that Mother Nature is kind until April 12. Otherwise, there’s not much people can do.
According to Roll Call, Republicans hope to blame the expiration on Democrats when they come back from the current recess, since House Democrats objected to the spending offsets that the Senate had agreed to. But Republicans have made it clear that they fully endorse obstructing these extension packages. After all, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) said this week that “we didn’t give [Bunning] as much help as we probably should have.” “It took an act of courage like Sen. Bunning’s to perhaps jolt people,” Kyl said.