Legislative Activity

Senator Threatens to Hold Jeh Johnson Nomination

President Barack Obama has nominated former Department of Defense Chief Counsel Jeh Johnson to serve as the next secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). However, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has announced that he plans to block all new nominees until the State Department gives the Senate access to interview survivors of the September 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack. While Sen. Graham has stated that he believes Johnson is well-qualified and will eventually vote to confirm him, he still plans to block his confirmation vote until the Senate can interview the survivors and review Federal Bureau of Investigation transcripts of survivor interviews. Johnson’s nomination comes as other Republicans in the House and Senate have pressured the Obama administration to nominate more senior DHS officials to fill vacancies at the agency.

Federal Emergency Management Agency Reauthorization

On Tuesday, October 29, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman passed the first ever Federal Emergency Management Reauthorization Act (H.R. 3300) to authorize parts of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for three years. The approved version of the bill contains an amendment by Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL) to make houses of worship eligible for FEMA disaster aid; currently, only private non-profit facilities such as medical and educational facilities and those that provide “essential government services” can receive federal disaster aid. However, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) warned that this provision is unconstitutional. The bill also contains an amendment by Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL) to direct the FEMA administrator to issue a rule that limits the time frame for audits.

Senators Introduce Bill to Delay Flood Insurance Rate Increases

A bipartisan group of fifteen lawmakers from the House and Senate reached agreement on a legislative framework to temper or halt National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) rate hikes and introduced legislation in the Senate (S. 1610) on Tuesday, October 29. The legislation would require FEMA to undertake a study on flood insurance rate affordability and certify that FEMA flood zone maps are based on reliable scientific methods. The bill would give Congress the ability to accept or deny a FEMA proposal on how to make flood insurance premiums more affordable, and to delay premium increases until either new regulations are finalized or a four-year freeze expires. However, Senate Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-AL), Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), and others oppose the bill, arguing that NFIP is already in debt and cannot afford to continue to subsidize flood insurance premiums.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Wednesday, November 6: The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a full committee business meeting.
  • Wednesday, November 6: The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Emergency Management, Intergovernmental Relations, and the District of Columbia will hold a hearing titled “One Year Later: Examining the Ongoing Recovery from Hurricane Sandy.”