Senate passes flood insurance, child-care bills

March 13

On the verge of leaving Washington for another week-long recess, the Senate approved two bipartisan measures Thursday dealing with flood insurance and federally subsidized child care.

The Senate voted 72 to 22 Thursday to pass a flood insurance bill that will roll back sharp premium increases to homeowners that were implemented as part of a federal overhaul of the flood insurance program.

The bipartisan bill, which was approved overwhelmingly by the House, tones down a 2012 law aimed at weaning hundreds of thousands of homeowners off subsidized flood insurance rates and caps increases to flood insurance premiums at 18 percent a year.

The bill calls on FEMA to strive for a goal that most policyholders have a premium of no more than 1 percent of the value of their coverage and reinstates the flood insurance program's grandfathering provision. If the bill is signed into law, homes that complied with previous flood maps would not be hit with large increases when new maps show greater risk of flooding.

Earlier Thursday, senators voted 96 to 2 to reauthorize a child-care development block-grant program and make several changes to improve the quality of federally subsidized child care. Changes made by the measure would require child care providers caring for low-income families through a government program to undergo criminal background checks and training for first aid and CPR.

Roughly 1.6 million children benefit from the federally subsidized program.

The legislation was introduced under an unusual deal that permitted its bipartisan sponsors to control Senate floor time and consider dozens of amendments proposed by members of both parties.

“This is the way the Senate ought to work,” said Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), a lead sponsor of the bill. “There were differences, but differences doesn’t mean that it has to be filled with rancor all the time. At the end of the time, after all is said and done, people want us to get more things done and less things said.”

“This is a small but significant step on the road to repairing a broken Senate,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.). “The fact that both sides worked together on an important bill and were able to fend off difficult amendments in order to pass it should pave the way for future bills to pass, and soothe some of the damaged feelings in the Senate.”

Schumer and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) helped broker an agreement that allowed for debate on the child-care bill. And its passage with broad bipartisan support means the Senate is likely to consider other modest proposals in the coming weeks. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) has said he will permit more debate on other measures on subjects ranging from sentencing overhauls to manufacturing and energy efficiency.

Even though the measure passed easily in the House, its fate remains less certain in the House.

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Philip Rucker | March 13