➤ Efforts to reform the National Flood Insurance Program are not dead, despite an influential Republican's claims.
➤ Flood mapping, longer-term extension of funding and an automatic mechanism to offload debt are a few of Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo.
Even though Emanuel Cleaver will not lead the Housing and Insurance Subcommittee of the House of Representatives Financial Services Committee, the Missouri Democrat said he intends to be an "active" member of the subcommittee, using ideas gathered during his four years as the top minority-party member on the panel.
Outgoing committee Chairman Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., said in late November that any legislation passed regarding the National Flood Insurance Program once Democrats take control will come with "no reform." But in an interview with S&P Global Market Intelligence outside the House chamber, Cleaver rejected that idea and discussed how the program could be revamped under Democrats.
The interview came before the current federal government shutdown, which prompted the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency to briefly limit policy writing under NFIP, despite a congressional extension having been passed, before it quickly reversed course.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo.
Source: U.S. House of Representatives
S&P Global Market Intelligence: I talked to one of your Republican colleagues recently, who said reforming the National Flood Insurance Program is dead. Is it?
What are some of the top items you want to include in a flood insurance reform package?
And we need to have a massive remapping effort beyond our [current] water [levels]. It needs to include the five U.S. territories, because we saw what happened in Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands.
Why 10 years? Wouldn't you want the program to be flexible to deal with events as they occur?
Now, they believe, as do I, that they need more time to look at the program over an extended period of time, not six months like we're doing right now, because they have no chance to study the program. The uncertainty prevents them from doing any proactive planning. So, we didn't give them enough time to plan to through some major [catastrophe] events and then come out and then evaluate what happened in that event.
Do you think NFIP has a better chance to get to the president's desk than under Republicans?
Look, I had a lot of insurance people meeting in Kansas City, I had about 22 people, some local, some national ...
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners is headquartered there...
You said Rep. Lacy Clay, D-Mo., will chair the Housing and Insurance subcommittee. Can you be effective without the gavel?
So, I'm going to fall right in and ... I told my staff I would still have a [hearing] of insurance companies to talk about flood. I said, if the chair does not object or if the chair will let me participate, then we're going to do it.
Say we're to talk again in two years. What is the one flood insurance thing you would like to have accomplished by the end of the next session of Congress?
Water changes course over time and we have flood plains where floods don't occur anymore. And we have non-flood plains that are now having floods in the 500-year flood event zones more frequently.
And so we got to do that in order to help the public because they're paying insurance based on the likelihood of an event. We have to spend the money, even if we have to cut back on the size of the [shopping] mall.