WASHINGTON, DC, Thursday, July 18, 2013 ? U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee today issued the following statement at a full committee markup of the fiscal year 2014 appropriations bills for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies and the Department of Homeland Security.
"Thank you, Madam Chair.
"The two bills we will discuss today support many important government functions, including law enforcement, scientific research, disaster relief, and safeguards against terrorism.
"As I said during the subcommittee mark-up, the Commerce, Justice, Science bill is the product of bipartisan work and input. I appreciate the Chair's willingness to incorporate ideas from both sides of the aisle.
"In addition, at about $39 billion in discretionary spending, the Homeland Security bill is roughly in line with the House level and includes critical priorities that make our nation safer.
"There are many reasons to support both pieces of legislation. Regrettably, however, I will be opposing the bills because they conform to an overall allocation that will ultimately violate the Budget Control Act.
"If we do not adhere to the law, the result will be a large-scale sequestration and even the highest-priority programs will suffer from across-the-board cuts.
"The budget constraints that we face today make it necessary to spend wisely and put in place strong taxpayer protections.
"With that in mind, I'd like to briefly raise a concern about a specific provision in the Homeland Security bill.
"This provision would, in effect, delay the implementation of risk-based premiums for the National Flood Insurance Program.
"The adjustment of those premiums is part of a larger reform package that passed on a bipartisan basis only about one year ago.
"I strongly supported these reforms as Ranking Member of the Banking Committee. It is critical that they be allowed to move forward to place the National Flood Insurance Program on a more sustainable footing.
"Two years ago, the flood insurance program was $18 billion in the red; it is now $24 billion in debt and growing.
"Delaying the implementation of risk-based premiums means, among other things, that participants in high-risk areas will continue to be subsidized and the program could slip further into debt.
"The Chair of the Homeland Security subcommittee has been an energetic participant in this debate for many years. She has been steadfast in her concern for those in her state that may not be able to afford actuarially sound rates.
"One problem, however, is that the language in this bill will exempt even the wealthiest of homeowners from having to pay their fair share.
"It also fails to compel the completion of an affordability study by a date certain.
"If this bill ever gets consideration on the floor, I would hope that the Senator from Louisiana would be willing to put the wealthy and affluent back on the hook for actuarially sound rates.
"I would also hope that the Chair would be open to working on language that would require the completion, at a date certain, of the affordability study we put in the original bill.
"Madam Chair, about one year ago Congress took a significant bipartisan step to reform a broken program. This is a feat we do not often accomplish around here.
"If this language becomes law, however, it will be a significant step backward. This Committee should not endorse this course of action.