WASHINGTON — Senate Banking Committee leaders introduced a bipartisan flood insurance bill this week to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program for six years, hoping to pass it quickly ahead of a looming deadline of Sept. 30 when the program expires.

Yet the bill by Chairman Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, stays silent on an issue important to the financial industry and House lawmakers: whether to allow consumers and businesses the option to purchase private flood insurance.

Sen.  Mike Crapo (left), R-Ida., and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio
“This bill represents the many areas where we have found agreement, and we look forward to working with our colleagues to address outstanding issues," Sens. Mike Crapo, left, R-Idaho, and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said in a joint press release. Bloomberg News

To date, the panel leaders have not reached an agreement on private insurance, but they wanted to release the bill to kick-start discussions among lawmakers.

“We have held multiple hearings and worked on a bipartisan basis to hear thoughts and concerns from the program’s stakeholders, regulators and from Banking Committee members,” Crapo and Brown said in a joint press release late Monday. “This bill represents the many areas where we have found agreement, and we look forward to working with our colleagues to address outstanding issues.”

The House Financial Services Committee has approved several bills aimed at improving the availability of flood insurance, including one by Reps. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., and Kathy Castor, D-Fla., that would open the door for insurance companies to sell private flood insurance policies to homeowners.

The American Bankers Association, Mortgage Bankers Association and a dozen other industry trade groups are urging the Senate Banking Committee to approve a similar private flood insurance bill co-sponsored by Sens. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Jon Tester, D-Mont.

"Increased private sector involvement could expand available flood insurance options, lower costs for consumers and reduce the government's exposure to flood loss over time," a July 14 joint industry letter said.

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