Last week, the United States Senate failed to vote on several bills meant to extend federal programs including unemployment, COBRA, flood insurance, and transportation project funding, before their expiration dates on Sunday, February 28th. Why? Because one senator, Jim Bunning (R-KY) has concerns enough about how to pay for such programs, that he’s blocked final approval of any of them.
The result of this is that all of those programs could be in political limbo for a week or so, until the Senate finds away to either approve the extensions without Bunning, or assuage his worries. Practically, this means that – for example – the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) will not be able to issue any new policies, approve renewals, or increase coverage amounts, until reauthorization has been approved by Congress.
Senator Bunning maintains that Congress has not met the requirement of paying for the requested extensions, either via new funding or budget cuts. He says he does support the extensions, but feels funding should be clear before they’re approved. Mr. Bunning is not seeking re-election after his current term ends.
On the Senate floor, Bunning said, “The only difference I have, and some of my good friends from the other side of the aisle, is that I believe we should pay for it. There is a right over the last three years of the Democratically controlled Congress. We have run up $5 trillion in debt. There has to be a time to stop that.”
In response, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid vowed that the extension measures would pass by week’s end, but he also criticized the Republican senator’s delay tactics, explaining, “We talk a lot about Senate procedure in our debates, and that’s often appropriate. But it’s also often complex. The catch here is that these benefits do not need to expire. We have the ability right now to extend them for just a short time until we work out a longer-term solution. It is irresponsible not to. It is immoral.”
If the extension measures are approved, flood insurance would only be extended through March 28th of this year – just a month. There have already been other short-term extensions within the past year.
The United States House of Representatives has already approved the flood insurance extension.