Durbin works with New York senator to delay flood insurance requirements

By:  Mike Fitzgerald
Belleville News-Democrat

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, D-Springfield, has joined Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to introduce a bill to delay the Federal Emergency Management Agency's mandatory flood insurance purchase rules for five years.

The Durbin-Schumer bill would apply to towns with newly designated flood maps across the country -- including the metro-east, where up to 150,000 properties will be affected in Madison, St. Clair and Monroe counties, according to a statement Durbin issued Wednesday.

As a result of signing on to the Schumer bill, Durbin dropped the stand-alone bill he had sponsored and submitted to the Senate Banking Committee in September.

That earlier bill included a provision that calls for a five-year delay in the flood maps as part of a measure to reauthorize the federal flood insurance program.

The Durbin-Schumer bill mirrors a measure that U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Belleville, had earlier this year got passed in the House, but has stalled in the Senate.

Costello applauded the Senate measure that Durbin has signed onto, predicting it will succeed in the House, because his own bill contained provisions that "received overwhelming, bipartisan support" in that chamber, "and will benefit the entire country. I hope they can be passed in the Senate before the end of the year."

Under FEMA's current timetable, new flood maps are set to take effect in January. If they do, that would mean dramatically higher flood insurance premiums for tens of thousands of American Bottoms property owners, forcing many homeowners and businesses to flee, according to metro-east leaders.

Durbin's statement, however, does not address the strong possibility the Durbin-Schumer bill could be blocked by the Senate's Republican minority for the final days of the post-election Congress.

Senate Republicans have threatened to stall almost all Democratic-backed legislation until the Senate passes bills to extend expiring tax cuts -- including those for American's earning more than $250,000 annually -- and to fund the federal government.

In a Washington Post story published Wednesday, however, Durbin expressed optimism that Senate leaders could reach across the aisle to compromise on the tax cuts issue.

"We've got a path forward," Durbin said in the wake of a meeting on the new START treaty, a proposed arms control aimed at cutting nuclear weapons stockpiles in the United States and Russia that Republicans seek to block.