Although 16 Republican senators voted against disaster relief in the wake of devastating hurricanes in Florida, Texas, and Puerto Rico, only one took to the floor of the Senate to explain why.
Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee said in his Senate speech that “it’s easy to caricature a vote against emergency aid as callous or cruel,” which is indeed how much of the media is characterizing Senator Lee’s vote.
But Lee went on to point out that “it’s harder still to defend these packages when their contents are exposed to the light of day.”
Senator Mike Lee explains why a natural disaster relief bill should not be drafted
Lee does just that.
If you were evaluating an emergency aid package, you might reasonably expect it to direct all its spending to programs that actually help the people of Florida, Puerto Rico, and Texas. But this proposal does not direct all its money to broad-based recovery efforts. Not even close.
Just under half of the $36.5 billion in new spending would bail out the National Flood Insurance Program.
In the Houston area, 17 percent of homeowners were enrolled in NFIP. In Puerto Rico the numbers are even worse: Just 5,600 Puerto Ricans are enrolled in NFIP, less than one percent of homeowners.
That means 99 percent of Puerto Ricans won’t get anything at all from this $16 billion to NFIP . . . But then again, it’s not clear that NFIP recipients get much from NFIP to begin with.
The National Flood Insurance Program is the triumph of good intentions over sound policy.
Lee is right. The federal government has become an insurer of first resort, and the amount of taxpayer money wasted in the process is almost criminal.
The real problem is with the National Flood Insurance Program according to Mike Lee
He cites the following example:
When Hurricane Harvey swept through Houston last month, it submerged a house that had been flooded twenty-two times since 1979. The house is valued at about $600,000. The government has spent $1.8 million to rehabilitate it.
No private insurance company would offer insurance on the terms that NFIP offers: Such a company would endanger its policyholders and run out of money.
And that is precisely what has happened under NFIP. The program is $25 billion in debt, and routinely blows through its statutory debt limits.
Lee also notes that the spending increases for debt relief are not offset by spending cuts elsewhere to pay for them. The end result is a ballooning debt, continued profligacy, and no attempt to create a sustainable and workable relief program that makes a lick of sense.
Watch Senator Mike Lee’s full remarks starting at approximately 3:08:00 below: