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Q & A with Congressman Blum
by Rod Blum · November 9th, 2017

Q. Why aren't Republicans working with Democrats on tax reform or healthcare legislation? James on Facebook

A. It is my strong belief that major legislation affecting wide aspects of the economy such as tax reform and healthcare should be done in a bipartisan manner, and there are Democrats in the House that I believe would be willing to work with us in the majority to make progress on both of these fronts.

Unfortunately, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has instructed her caucus that it is more politically beneficial to them to not find or offer solutions, or work with us in any way to provide relief to those suffering under Obamacare or our burdensome tax code. I have worked with Democrats on term limits, whistleblower protection, and to protect the Federal Historic Tax Credit, and will continue to work with anyone that is interested in moving America forward. It is my hope that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle will find the willpower to break past the partisan divide in Washington and get things done for the American people.

Q. Why did you vote against aid to Puerto Rico? Edward on Twitter

A. The most recent hurricane relief package voted on in the House is yet another egregious example of "politics as usual" in Washington DC. I'm referring to the practice of adding bad policy to must-pass bills because career politicians know that the add-ons would never pass as standalone legislation.

Most problematic was the recent bill's provision canceling $16 billion of the NFIP's debt without making any reforms whatsoever. NFIP was nearly $25 billion in debt before this season's hurricanes and is reported to have already exhausted its current borrowing capacity of $30.4 billion.

As problematic government programs go, the NFIP is a dandy. These days it collects less in premiums and surcharges than it shells out in claims and other expenses, leaving taxpayers holding the bag.

Forgiving the program's debts without addressing the issues that created those obligations in the first place sets a bad precedent. And remember - when government debt is "forgiven" the amount forgiven is added to our national debt our children and grandchildren will have to bear the burden. As Vice-President Pence warned in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina: "Congress must ensure that a catastrophe of nature does not become a catastrophe of debt for our children and grandchildren."

The following reforms should have been considered before any debt was forgiven:

Congress should gradually move both discounted and grandfathered properties to risk-based rates. For too long, NFIP has subsidized people living in flood-prone areas, which has led to the program's nearly $25 billion in debt - an entirely predictable result. Where necessary, Congress can subsidize low-income homeowners so that they can afford truly risk-based rates.

Congress should investigate requiring investments in flood mitigation efforts by homeowners and local/state governments to help the most vulnerable properties reduce their risk of flooding as a condition for receiving flood insurance. "Repetitive loss" properties make up around 1 percent of policies but account for 30 percent of payouts.

The bipartisan Flood Insurance Market Parity and Modernization Act, sponsored by Reps. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., and Kathy Castor, D-Fla., would make a technical correction that would clarify which private flood insurance policies mortgage lenders can accept in connection with the federal coverage mandate. While NFIP is the largest provider of flood insurance, private insurers sold more than $400 million in coverage in 2016. The Ross-Castor language would help the private flood insurance market, which would lessen financial stress on NFIP and give consumers more choice in the marketplace.

Congress should mandate Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) update its floodplain mapping. By requiring the use of Light Detection Ranging mapping, FEMA can provide more accurate flood maps. With more accurate mapping, homeowners, lenders, and taxpayers would better understand the flood risks properties face.

I am supportive of hurricane relief for any U.S. state or territory, but I'm also fighting against "business as usual" in Washington DC.

I'll guarantee if the bill - that had included in it the bailout for NFIP - had been voted down, a clean hurricane relief bill for Puerto Rico would have been brought forward to vote on within 24 hours, and I would have voted for that clean bill. Business as usual needs to change in our federal government, and it will only change if principled citizen legislators stand up.

All the best,

Rod Blum

Rod Blum is the Republican Congressman from Iowa's 1st District. He is a member of the Oversight and Small Business Committees and chair of the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy, and Trade.
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