As hurricane season nears, Vitter relents on FEMA nominee

McClatchy NewspapersMay 12, 2009 

WASHINGTON — After coming under tremendous pressure to release his hold on FEMA nominee Craig Fugate before hurricane season begins, Sen. David Vitter, R-La. this morning gave the former Florida emergency chief the green light for Senate confirmation.

But, no sooner had Vitter said he was now satisfied that FEMA would resolve his V-Zone issues than another controversy surfaced. Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Bay St. Louis, issued a blistering statement after learning of the Obama Administrations' opposition to his multi-peril insurance.

"Apparently, the Obama Administration has no problem with bailing out insurance giant AIG with tens of billions of taxpayer dollars. But it will not ensure that coastal homeowners are able to buy insurance that will fully cover hurricane damage at an affordable price," said Taylor after receiving a copy of a letter Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano sent to House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass.

“Sec. Napolitano’s letter is riddled with fiction which my staff and I can refute with facts. In his confirmation hearings last month, Craig Fugate — Obama’s nominee for FEMA Director — parroted the same industry-backed talking points. When it comes to protecting homeowners from the greed and avarice of insurance companies, none of this is change. It is the status quo, and it hurts homeowners throughout coastal America.”

Fugate did not actually give his position during his hearing but responded in writing to questions posed by members of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

“Coverage is available in the private sector and through state wind pools," Fugate said. "I oppose extending the federal government’s role and increasing its liability for an insurance program that is readily available in the private sector and through state insurance plans."

The House passed Taylor's legislation last year as part of flood insurance reauthorization which would allow homeowners to purchase wind as well as water coverage under the National Floor Insurance Program.

Taylor's objections will not affect Fugate's nomination because it is the Senate which must confirm presidential nominees.

Vitter in a statement said that he now had written assurance that FEMA would resolve construction issues in V-Zones.

“I’m very confident based on their written commitment that the V-Zone issue will be solved soon so that crucial infrastructure and facilities can be rebuilt. I look forward to working with the new FEMA administrator on that and much more,” said Vitter.

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