The House of Representatives' $1.1 trillion federal spending bill approved Jan. 15 also is notable for something it blocks: any spending by the government through Sept. 30 to impose flood-insurance rate hikes on tens of thousands of Americans. Now it's up to the Senate to decide whether it wants to do the same.

Members of Congress serving coastal and flood-prone areas have pressed for several months to stall dramatic premium increases for flood insurance caused by Congress' passage of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act in July 2012. The result for the House was legislation added to the general spending bill that affects only those homes bought or built before Biggert-Waters became law. Owners of vacation homes, businesses, and homes with frequent flood damage will still have to pay the higher premiums, as will owners of homes constructed or purchased after July 2012.

Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.),the provision's chief sponsor, said the measure would postpone hikes for 400,000 homeowners in his state in addition to countless others in flood-prone areas across the country.
The spending bill now awaits action in the Senate, where Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) took to the Senate floor Wednesday to urge passage of different legislation that would delay federal flood insurance rate hikes for four years and provide more leeway for potential home buyers and owners of re-mapped homes to ease into higher insurance rates instead of paying them upfront.

“The most important thing about flood insurance is that it be affordable to the people required to have it,” she said.

The Senate is expected to pass the House version of the budget sometime this week.